MADEIN ARTIST COLLECTIVE CHINESE ART UK GALLERY SHOW
“Seeing One’s Own Eyes“ is the first European exhibition by MadeIn, a new artists’ collective founded in 2009 in Shanghai by Xu Zhen (b. 1977, Shanghai), often heralded as one of the most important and renowned conceptual artists to have emerged from China since the 1990s.
While the work is all made in China, Madeln impersonates a fictional group of Middle Eastern artists, creating a kind of exhibition in disguise, “an exhibition of an exhibition.” The use of this technique enables Xu to play down his personal identity.
Derived from “Made In”, two words that refer to manufacturing (with country of origin not specified), the name Madeln also phonetically translates into Chinese for “without a roof ” (‘méi d˘ı∙ng’), suggesting an openness to the collective’s work.
Through a range of media including sculpture, video and mixed-media installation, Madeln presents clichéd images of the Middle East, as a war-torn part of the world, associated with the oil industry, death, violence, human suffering and religious conflict. By raising issues of cultural perception, the exhibition encourages us to take a clearer view of current affairs in that region of the world.
The most recent work titled Hey, are you ready? (2009–2010) comprises of three large white sculptures made from polystyrene, one of the many by-products derived from the distillation of oil. These objects form neat, crisp packaging for the protection of loaded symbols including mosques, crescents, oil barrels and Kalashnikov rifles, revealed by negative space.
Spread (2009), a series of wall hangings covered with cartoon imagery, deal explicitly with the geographical politics of Israel, Palestine, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, China, Europe and the USA. Key political figures and scenarios are starkly drawn and exaggerated to billboard proportions, provoking and highlighting the often unconstructive and negative debates that are encountered in this area.
In Perfect Volume (2009) the toe-ends of combat desert boots create a circle on the floor representing a row of absent soldiers as imagined casualties. This references the eternity and infinity of the circle, and is further depicted in the piece Machine for Perpetual Motion (2009), a model of an oil pump, constructed meccano-style but made from razor wire. The energy needed for its movement is blatantly taken from an electrical socket.
The illusionary installation Calm (2009) is made of building debris, a carpet of bits of brick and rubble that is still at first glance. Slowly it reveals itself as animated, gently moving up and down as if it were breathing like the survivor of a bomb blast, trapped and awaiting rescue. This notion of destructive power also features in the low-level floor-based installationThe Colour of Heaven (2009), where mushroom clouds from atomic bomb explosions are placed under assorted glasses.
The title of this exhibition refers to a verse in the Koran, “My way, and that of my followers, is to call you to God, on evidence as clear as seeing with one’s own eyes” (Sura 12, verse 108). Freely translated it is an opportunity for to reflect, a consideration of how we see – by “seeing one’s own eyes” – as much as what we see.
Two other articles regarding Xu Zhen’s Madeln and “Seeing One’s Own Eyes”, when the show was on display in other international locations, are:
- Traveling Without Moving by Xhingyu Chen, ArtAsiaPacific Magazine, March/April 2010
- Chris Moore on Madeln at ShanghART, Shanghai by Chris Moore, Saatchi Gallery website, 8 October 2009
- Visual Culture of Shanghai on show at San Francisco Asian Art Museum – June 2010
- The Problem of Asia: Para/Site art exhibition explores Asian identity in Sydney – May 2010
- Cause and Effect: London solo for Macau-Russian artist Konstantin Bessmertny – May 2010
- Hong Kong artist ‘anothermountainman’ debuts solo photo exhibition in UK – April 2010
- Top 17 Asian Artists 2009: Art Radar’s most-searched artists – January 2010