A new perspective on wet market ─ as art
What is pop culture? What does it take to be popular? And how to create our own guide to popularity in accordance with our culture’s values and norms?
In the quest for an answer, an exhibition titled “Cai Shi Chang (Wet Market)” has rounded up 10 contemporary artworks from 10 emerging artists at the city’s commercial complex HKRI Taikoo Hui on Nanjing Road W.
Through May 7, the exhibition welcomes all to come and discover as well as to try an “edible” feast of culture and art.
From fresh agricultural products to interactive installations, photos and videos, each work of art expresses a shared experience related to a popular word, a cultural symbol or a social phenomenon in present-day living.
A huge screen wall standing at the entrance to the exhibition is “CHEW” by Gao Lei, who has laid strips of chewing gums on the gray checked door mat to indicate the boring experience of people waiting in line to be served.
Taking center stage is Zhang Ding’s “Meat Shop,” which is 10 meters long, 7 meters wide and 5 meters high.
When visitors get into it through the narrow exit, they will find a dazzling room of bold mirrored walls, with a huge disco ball revolving overhead. In the four glass door freezers on either side hang frozen pig’s carcasses cut in half.
Zhang says it’s like another kind of nightclub, where people gather, splurge and take away the intoxicated bodies. With messages of greed, consumption, cruelty and win at any cost, he requires everyone to ponder in silence (no music is played inside the space) whether it is the popular culture that we want.
In contrast, artist Guo Hongwei’s “Music Corn Project” seems to have offered a wonderful answer to Zhang’s question. He contrasts popular culture to organic food, which is grown and consumed by people who have a deep respect for themselves and healthful living.
At Guo’s project, there are baskets of corncobs which he has recently harvested from the two experimental fields he cultivated in Guizhou’s Kaili and Yunnan’s Menglun.
By scanning the QR code, visitors get to watch a video of him playing music in the field where he grows organic corns.
Together with Guo’s corns “that grow up healthily while listening to the music” is Liu Jiayu’s fruits that can sing. In her work “Happy Recipe,” visitors becomes a DJ by patting the watermelons, carrots and the bananas — each connected with an electric wire — to create a good, happy harmony.
Compared with four classic arcade machines standing aloof in the corner, Lu Pingyuan’s “Eat After Reading” attracted most of the visitors at the opening of the exhibition yesterday.
Lu sells his short stories hot off the press on site. After reading, visitors are encouraged to eat the paper which was made from rice and edible paint. The artist believes that “pop culture is fast food for the soul.”
All the works presented at the exhibition are made for sale, inviting visitors to touch, feel and take away whatever charms them in the market, like what you do when visiting a traditional wet market.
Presented by Li Yuchun, one of China’s most popular singers, “Cai Shi Chang” is hailed as a crossover art experiment. It provides a challenging space, as well as an opportunity for everyone to come and explore what makes up the popular culture — an expression of shared beliefs and values — in our daily life.
Most of the participating artists are of the same age as Li, who was born in the 1980s and grew up in an era that developed fast economically. Collectively, they are expressing a shared anxiety that has permeated today’s popular culture and has everyone talking: What we, as individuals, should do to contribute to the formation and growth of a healthy society?
Date: Through May 7
Venue: HKRI Taikoo Hui Shanghai
Address: 3/F, 789 Nanjing Rd W.