Serenading visitors at Lee Mingwei’s first Beijing show – in pictures

Taiwan-born Lee Mingwei’s first solo exhibition in mainland China involves giving visitors the gift of song.

Beijing’s Ullens Center for Contemporary Art (UCCA) presents a solo show by Taiwan-born artist Lee Mingwei from 26 April to 18 May 2014. The presentation, entitled Sonic Blossom, comprises one-on-one opera performances in the museum space.

Philip Tinari (Director of UCCA) and Lee Mingwei. Photo by Mao Zhenyu. Image courtesy UCCA.

Philip Tinari (Director of UCCA) and Lee Mingwei. Photograph by Mao Zhenyu. Image courtesy UCCA.

A participatory installation

In Sonic Blossom, classically trained opera singers approach individual museum visitors with the question: “May I give you a gift of song?” If the visitor accepts the offer, they are led to a chair in the middle of the room and serenaded with one of Franz Schubert’s Lieder. The press release describes the experience as a “fleeting moment of beauty experienced publicly”.

Installation view of singer Ding Yi and museum visitors. Photograph by Mao Zhenyu. Image courtesy UCCA.

Installation view of singer Ding Yi and museum visitors. Photograph by Mao Zhenyu. Image courtesy UCCA.

Like many of Lee Mingwei’s works, the “participatory installation” allows visitors to experience self-awareness and intimacy with complete strangers through one-on-one performances. All the singers are second-year opera students at the China Conservatory of Music.

Installation view of singer Ding Yi and museum visitors. Photograph by Mao Zhenyu. Image courtesy UCCA.

Installation view of singer Ding Yi and museum visitors. Photograph by Mao Zhenyu. Image courtesy UCCA.

The idea behind the presentation is a deeply personal one for Lee Mingwei. On his website, the artist says:

Sonic Blossom came into existence while I was caring for my mother as she recuperated from surgery recently. We found great comfort in listening to Franz Schubert’s Lieder. […] Like Schubert’s Lieder, our own lives are brief, but all the more beautiful because of this.

Installation view of singer Ding Yi and museum visitors. Photograph by Mao Zhenyu. Image courtesy UCCA.

Installation view of singer Ding Yi and museum visitors. Photograph by Mao Zhenyu. Image courtesy UCCA.

This is the second worldwide performance of Sonic Blossom; the work was debuted at the opening exhibition of the National Museum of Contemporary Art in Seoul in 2013.

Installation view of singer Yin Yue. Photograph by Mao Zhenyu. Image courtesy UCCA.

Installation view of singer Yin Yue. Photograph by Mao Zhenyu. Image courtesy UCCA.

Installation view of singer Yin Yue and a museum visitor. Photograph by Mao Zhenyu. Image courtesy UCCA.

Installation view of singer Yin Yue and a museum visitor. Photograph by Mao Zhenyu. Image courtesy UCCA.

As quoted in Global Times, Lee Mingwei says that he thinks the performance is

a play of fate and chance unfolding using space and time. It starts with two persons and it expands to all the people who choose to stop.

Installation view of singer Zuo Siyuan and museum visitors. Photograph by Mao Zhenyu. Image courtesy UCCA.

Installation view of singer Zuo Siyuan and museum visitors. Photograph by Mao Zhenyu. Image courtesy UCCA.

Installation view of singer Zuo Siyuan and a museum visitor. Photograph by Mao Zhenyu. Image courtesy UCCA.

Installation view of singer Zuo Siyuan and a museum visitor. Photograph by Mao Zhenyu. Image courtesy UCCA.

More about Lee Mingwei

Many of Lee Mingwei’s other works have also taken the form of participatory installations, where visitors meditate with the artist “through eating, sleeping, walking and conversation”. Their participatory nature makes them akin to social experiments exploring issues like trust and intimacy by providing scenarios for interaction. His past projects include The Moving Garden (2011), which asked museum goers to give flowers to strangers on the street, and The Sleeping Project (2000), which invited visitors to sleep overnight at the museum alongside the artist.

Lee Mingwei was born in Taiwan in 1964 and received his MFA from Yale University. His work has been exhibited at the Whitney Museum of American Art, MoMA, Queensland Gallery of Modern Art, Venice Biennale (2003) and the Biennale of Sydney (2012) among others. The artist currently lives and works in New York.

Kriti Bajaj

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Related Topics: artists from Taiwan, performance art, sound art, picture feasts, participatory art, events in Beijing

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