cai guo qiang and wu yulu: peasant da vincis
 
cai guo qiang and wu yulu: peasant da vincis cai guo qiang and wu yulu: peasant da vincis
may 13, 2010

cai guo qiang and wu yulu: peasant da vincis

cai guo-qiang: peasant da vincis rockbund art museum, shanghai may 7th to august 8th, 2010

while in shanghai for the world expo 2010, designboom visited cai guo-qiang’s exhibition ‘peasant da vincis’ at the rockbund art museum.

throughout his career, chinese artist cai guo-qiang has been exploring themes such as humanity, the creative strength and energy of nature and its relationship with the universe. ‘peasant da vincis’ is the inaugural exhibition for the museum, the new contemporary art institution located in the historic building that housed the first museum in china.

this is part one of the exhibition report, see part 2 here.

cai guo-qiang yves klein’s living brush, 2010 work commissioned by cai guo-qiang and created by wu yulu using metal, electronics, secondhand materials image © designboom

 

coinciding with the shanghai world expo 2010, whose theme is, ‘better city, better life’, the theme of cai’s exhibition closely relates: ‘peasants – making a better city, a better life’. on this occasion, he presents a pioneering, cross-disciplinary project featuring ‘cultural readymades’, a common element in his work, exploring the subject of human creativity, the universal desire to innovate in the pursuit of modernity and the influence of nature, society, politics and other cultural factors on invention.

cai guo-qiang’s use of cultural readymades in his works is different from the early masters: marcel duchamp, joseph beuys and andy warhol. not only does he use goods we see in everyday life,

or personal things that have an intimate relationship with their owners, he also uses objects born out of collective consciousness in a specific social environment, which in themselves carry rich cultural connotations and symbolic meanings. cai’s decision to showcase unpretentious homemade inventions of ‘peasant da vincis’ living in rural china in a museum in shanghai, maximizes the contrast and conflict between these readymades and their surroundings, providing a platform of discussion of such topics as the relationship between human creativity and its social and temporal context, the transformation of the social identity of peasants of the chinese modernization process and western cultural perspectives.

the exhibition extends from cai’s cross-disciplinary practice and his fascination with concepts of experimentation, risk, failure and the human relationship to the universe. serving as creator, curator and artist, cai has worked in collaboration with people from rural communities throughout china to present their amateur inventions that he’s collected for this inaugural exhibition.

 

 

cai guo-qiang yves klein’s living brush, 2010 work commissioned by cai guo-qiang and created by wu yulu using metal, electronics, secondhand materials image © designboom

 

 

curating the exhibition, cai uses the mundane notion of ‘peasant’ and the realities they face to question and contemplate china’s modernization and urbanization accompanied by rapid social, economic and cultural development in our globalized world.

cai has invited robot inventor wu yulu, his wife, their two sons and families to turn the entire third floor of the museum space into a robot production workshop – ‘wu yulu’s robot factory’. during the exhibition, new robots are constantly being built and completed, performing tasks such as pulling a rickshaw, watering and picking flowers, playing instruments etc. five robots commissioned by cai are also found painting and engaging in performative actions, including jumping off walls and replicating the iconic gestures of modern and contemporary artists: damien hirst, yves klein and jackson pollock. the creations of these artistic robots will be available as limited editions.

 

 

cai guo-qiang yves klein’s living brush, 2010 work commissioned by cai guo-qiang and created by wu yulu using metal, electronics, secondhand materials image © designboom

 

 

video by designboom

 

 

cai guo-qiang robot mimicking the work of jackson pollock, 2010 work commissioned by cai guo-qiang and created by wu yulu using metal, electronics, secondhand materials image © designboom

 

 

 

cai guo-qiang robot mimicking the work of jackson pollock, 2010 work commissioned by cai guo-qiang and created by wu yulu using metal, electronics, secondhand materials image © designboom

 

 

 

cai guo-qiang robot mimicking the work of jackson pollock, 2010 work commissioned by cai guo-qiang and created by wu yulu using metal, electronics, secondhand materials image © designboom

 

 

video by designboom

 

 

cai guo-qiang a robot imitating the art of damien hirst, 2010 work commissioned by cai guo-qiang and created by wu yulu using metal, electronics, secondhand materials image © designboom

 

 

video by designboom

 

 

a rickshaw pulling robot built by wu yulu image © designboom

 

in the past, wu yulu developed ‘no. 25’, a robot which pulls a rickshaw, that is capable of carrying its owner in tow for up to 6 hours on a single charge.

 

 

detail image © designboom

 

 

video by designboom

 

 

detail image © designboom

 

 

 

wu yulu constructing a robot in the makeshift workshop on the museum’s third floor image © designboom

 

 

testing the robot image © designboom

 

 

testing the robot image © designboom

 

 

 

music making robot with cymbals and megaphone image © designboom

 

 

robot child image © designboom

 

 

video by designboom

 

 

cai guo-qiang with robot inventor wu yulu and his family

 

 

cai guo-qiang ‘peasants – making a better city, a better life’, 2010

 

 

‘peasants – making a better city, a better life’ is painted ont the speckled and dilapidated exterior wall of the andrews and george building, adjacent to the museum. the style of these slogans are a throwback to propoganda banners and billboards in factories and farms all over china from several decades ago, and such signs are still common today in rural areas.

cai guo-qiang was born in quanzhou city, fujian province, china in 1957. he was trained in stage design at the shanghai drama institute, and since then, his work has often been scholarly and / or politically charged. in 1999, he was awarded the golden lion at the 48th venice biennale. his work has been exhibited extensively on an international scale, with solo exhibitions at the metropolitan museum of art, new york; musée d’art contemporain, lyon, france; MoMA, new york; solomon r. guggenheim museum, new yor; taipei fine arts museum, taipei to name a few. he currently lives and works in new york.

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