26 Contemporary Chinese Artists Explore Materiality in ‘Allure of Matter’
CHICAGO—Containing a massive paper wave, a tower of leftover fat, and a tiger-skin rug of 500,000 cigarettes, The Allure of Matter: Material Art from China encompasses 48 works from 26 contemporary Chinese artists in an exhibition on view now in Chicago. Focused on the materiality of seemingly every day objects, the exhibition prompted artists to explore how substances like tobacco, plastics, and Coca-Cola could be fashioned anew. “Taken together, the works introduce a broader framework for understanding global contemporary art, which I call ‘Material Art’ or caizhi yishu, where material—rather than image or style—is the paramount vehicle of aesthetic, political, and emotional expression,” said co-curator Wu Hung.
The Allure of Matter is an extension of a trend artists in China began in the 1980s as they experimented and “exploded fireworks into paintings, felted hair into gleaming flags, stretched pantyhose into monochromatic artworks, deconstructed old doors and windows to make sculptures, and even skillfully molded porcelain into gleaming black flames,” a statement about the exhibition says.
Today, artists involved in the project, like Ai Weiwei (previously), Hu Xiaoyuan, and Cai Guo-Qiang (previously), are engaging with that provocative tradition through their multi-media works that often fill entire rooms, like gu wenda‘s human hair structure that is suspended from the ceiling. “Their monumental works represent a multifaceted phenomenon that inspires us to ask big questions about our relationship to the everyday material world around us as well as the interrelationship between Chinese art and broader trends in contemporary art globally,” co-curator Orianna Cacchione said.
If you’re in Chicago, make sure to check out the exhibition at both the Smart Museum and Wrightwood 659 before it closes on May 3.
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A New Circular Juice Machine Turns Orange Peels into Bioplastic Cups
Freshly squeezed orange juice is a welcome sight at cafes worldwide. The machines often showcase about-to-be-squeezed oranges with pinball machine-esque wire loading racks and clear cases that allow the consumer to see their juice being made in real time. International design firm Carlo Ratti Associati (previously) takes the immediacy of the experience to another level. ‘Feel the Peel’ is a prototype machine that uses orange peels to create bioplastic, shaping bespoke cups to hold the juice made from the cups’ own innards.
In a press release about the project, Carlo Ratti Associati (CRA) explains that the approximately 9-foot tall machine handles 1,500 oranges, and the peels accumulate in the lower level. The peels are dried, milled, and mixed with polylactic acid to form a bioplastic, which is then heated and melted so that an internal 3-D printer can form each recyclable cup. CRA shares that they will continue to iterate, and are considering creating clothing from orange peels as a future functionality.
Follow along with CRA’s wide-ranging projects on Instagram and Twitter. If you enjoy Feel the Peel, also check out the cone-shaped french fry holders made from potato peels, designed by Simone Caronni, Paolo Stefano Gentile and Pietro Gaeli, as well as Mi Zhou’s toiletry containers made of soap. (via designboom)
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Repurposing the World’s Plastic Waste: An Interview With Assemblage Sculptor Thomas Deininger
Every year more than eight million tons of plastic are dumped into our oceans. This anxiety, coupled with fears of a dramatic decline in insect populations and a global climate crisis, fuel the assemblage-based works of Thomas Deininger (previously). In a new short film by gnarly bay, clips of Deininger in his studio are supercut with footage showing the many ways that plastic has laid damage to our world’s sea creatures and environment. It is these bits of mindlessly discarded plastic that the Bristol, Rhode Island-based artist uses to create his sculptural optical illusions—which are often of the exact same animals and insects that the plastic threatens. You can see more of Deininger’s three-dimensional works built from found objects on Instagram.
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‘Full Page Editorial’ Sand Sculpture by Toshihiko Hosaka Implores Japan to Reduce Plastic
May 30 is Zero Waste Day in Japan (The name is derived from the numeric pun for 5 (go) 3 (mi) 0 (zero), which can be read as gomi zero, or zero waste). On this day, the Tokyo Shimbun newspaper ran a full-page editorial made to look like a front-page headline titled “Plastics Floating in our Seas” and highlighting the devastating impact that plastic is having on sea life. Everything from the article headline to the images and text were actually carved into sand on a beach in Japan and photographed from above.
The actual editorial that was carved into sand is the work of artist Toshihiko Hosaka (previously), who specializes in sand sculptures. Hosaka worked with local residents and students at Iioka Beach in Chiba prefecture to create the massive sand sculpture. It took 11 days to complete and measures 50 x 35 m (164 x 115 ft). Below is a brief excerpt from the text:
The sea does not speak. So, I will speak in its place. Currently, the lives of many creatures in the sea are being taken. The cause is plastic. Plastic bags, plastic bottles, styrofoam… 8 million tons of plastic used in everyday life are dumped in places like rivers and the ocean every year, and remains floating as garbage. By swallowing or being entangled in plastic garbage, about 700 species of animals including sea turtles, seabirds, seals, and fish are harmed and killed.
The editorial also calls out Japan as for its addiction to plastic:
We Japanese are also largely responsible. Japan produces the second most garbage per person. In order to rectify this, we have to take a good hard look at what is happening in the ocean. We need to think about things we have been ignoring as a result of prioritizing economic growth, everyday convenience, and such.
You can red the entire text in English here. Below are some behind-the-scenes photos and a video from the “newspaper” being created. (syndicated from Spoon & Tamago)
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Elegant Still Lifes of Luscious Fruits and Perfectly Ripe Vegetables Trapped Inside Plastic Packaging
Spanish studio QUATRE CAPS usually focuses on architectural renderings, but for a recent series, titled Not Longer Life, the group turned their attention to the plastic in our food system. In each of the six images, classic still life paintings by artists including Claude Monet, Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio, and Juan Sánchez Cotán are given a contemporary update. Recognizable still life elements like strongly directed light and decorative fabrics are maintained. But the perishable fruit that traditionally symbolized the temporary nature of life is now cloaked in plastic preservatives like cling wrap, clamshell containers, and stretchy foam sleeves.
The studio explains to Colossal, “Thousands of products are being commercialized, doubling and tripling a synthetic skin or even worse, taking the place of their natural wrapping skin with a plastic package in order to ‘ease’ their consumption.” If you like this series, also check out the work of Suzanne Jongmans. You can explore more projects by QUATRE CAPS on Instagram. (via Colossal Submissions)
Update: a reader shared an insightful article that highlights the importance of pre-cut produce in increasing accessibility to nutritious food for people with limited dexterity.
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Dysfunctional Household Objects and Fabricated Flowers Cleverly Created by PUTPUT
Copenhagen-based studio PUTPUT (previously) creates visual puns and quirky tools in their juxtaposition-filled photographs. From salami sunglasses to a chair made of flaming birthday candles, PUTPUT has a “shared and deeply rooted fascination with metaphysical relationships connected to everyday objects”, according to an artist statement on their website. An ongoing series is the studio’s Fabricated Flowers, where plastic and fabric household supplies like garden gloves, shower loofahs, and dish scrubbers stand in for the color blossoms of potted plants. You can see more from PUTPUT on Instagram.
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