East Contemporary

Yang Zhenzhong “Passage”

Yang Zhenzhong 杨振中: Passage 过道
Building 11, Shanghai TOP,18 Wuwei Road,Shanghai / Sept 4 –Oct 20, 2012

In his artworks Yang Zhengzhong observes and comments on contemporary life as he sees it around him, often referencing the life and changes in Chinese cities. Also the new exhibition titled “Passage” follows in this line. As the title suggests, this work is about passages and corridors, foremost in the descriptive sense of the word. The visitor enters the exhibition space through a long narrow corridor. At the end of the corridor, there is a central room where a video is screened: A video showing rides or walk-thoughs of aforementioned spaces: Subway tunnels, bridges, corridors, etc. Always in a central perspective and a steady forward movement, similar to the kind the visitor had to make to enter the screening room. To the left and to the right of the screening room, there are two exhibition rooms. Here, additional videos are screened, but most prominently, a number of large painting/objects are displayed. These are once again images of corridors, painted onto skewed wooden backgrounds that increase the illusionist effect of a three-dimensional space. The videos in the same space also loosely reference the topic of ‘passage’. For example a video of girls in a bed reading a script about the ‘passage’ between different stages of a socialist society (the well known ‘explanation’ by the Party why they had to fall back to capitalism – in order to allow for future communism).

I found the entrance to the exhibition and with the corresponding video at the end the strongest part of the exhibition, but from there on, I was more and more tired of the mechanically repeated central topic. The central video itself was repetitive in the sense that it was a collection of different walk-throughs, nothing else. I did not watch the whole video, but it may have been many. The actual number did not really matter. Unfortunately the side rooms just kept repeating the keyword, without building or extending the meaning in any significant way. The paintings/objects did not really work for me. The works which Yang Zhenzhong made his name with were based on a certain wit and humor, but there objects were nothing more than spatial reproductions of photos that were referencing certain places. One reason why there were less convincing to me was also the different way in which each of them was painted, some more realistic, some in a reduced palette referencing vector graphics. This made it look like some experimenting with the technology of painting rather than actually thinking about the content.

So overall, the impression of this exhibition was mediocre. The main reasons were that the focus promised by the initial piece (the corridor and central video) was not kept, but was dilated in an endless repetition of what seemed as the results of a brainstorming session on the topic of ‘passage’. The brainstorming session should have been followed by re-thinking and cutting down to the essentials, but this unfortunately did not happen.

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