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Sharjah Biennial 14: Leaving the Echo Chamber Ocula Report Sharjah Biennial 14: Leaving the Echo Chamber 15 Mar 2019 : Stephanie Bailey for Ocula

In Meiro Koizumi's three-channel video installation, The Angels of Testimony (2019), the central frame features an interview with Hajime Kondo about his time as a solider of the Imperial Japanese Army during the Second Sino-Japanese War. The conversation centres on war crimes perpetrated in China, including the beheading of Chinese prisoners for...

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Diana Campbell Betancourt Ocula Conversation Diana Campbell Betancourt

Diana Campbell Betancourt is a curator working predominantly across South and Southeast Asia. Since 2013 she has been the founding artistic director of the Samdani Art Foundation and chief curator of the Dhaka Art Summit in Dhaka, Bangladesh, a transnational art event that has grown in size and scale ever since its first edition in 2012. Backed by...

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Chinternet Ugly at Manchester’s Centre for Chinese Contemporary Art Ocula Report Chinternet Ugly at Manchester’s Centre for Chinese Contemporary Art 7 Mar 2019 : Mike Pinnington for Ocula

China, home to 802 million internet users, is subject to sophisticated online censorship. This shrouded state of affairs, unsurprisingly perhaps, serves to reinforce stereotypes around conformity elsewhere. Any realm, digital or otherwise, subject to such strict scrutiny must necessarily be bland and uncritical, right? I was mulling over such...

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He Xiangyu

b. 1986, China

He Xiangyu (何翔宇) is part of a new generation of Chinese conceptual artists whose work tests the limits of taste and perception, while critiquing sociopolitical issues such as rapid urbanisation and the impacts of global capitalism. Seemingly simple in their form and aesthetics, his projects are often collaborative and sometimes take several years to realise.

His Coca-Cola Project (2009-12) is exemplary of this, for which the artist boiled 127 tonnes of Coca-Cola over a year, transforming it into a bitumen-like residue that he then assembled into multiple configurations. One such configuration saw the artist grinding the residue into a powder that he used to create Song dynasty-style ink paintings. This multi-layered work involved a labour force based in his hometown of Dandong, near the North Korean border, where he employed ten workers to construct iron vessels that were used to transform the liquid. In the drawn-out mutation of a liquid synonymous with Western capitalism, He offered commentary on the relationship between art production and consumption.

These ideas also imbued his Tank Project (2011-13), the production of which also necessitated a work force—this time an entire factory of female needle workers. He used 400 pieces of fine Italian leather in order to reconstruct a life-size military tank (an object of recurrence in many episodes of Chinese modern history); its disparate form and material conflated power with desire.

He's practice often takes a localised approach, as seen in his move towards film and video for the Evidence project, which was exhibited at White Cube Bermondsey in London in 2018 (7 February-8 April 2018). Zeroing in on his hometown of Dandong, He examined the complex geopolitical position of the Kuandian area and its position beside North Korea, namely its separation from the country by the Yanlu River. This examination is particularly potent in the artist's feature-length film The Swim (2017), which premiered at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York in February 2017. Basing himself in Dandong with a film crew over the course of two years, He explored through a series of interviews the area as a site of relocation for defectors escaping from North Korea along with veterans who fought in the Korean War (1950-1953).

In the making of The Swim, He discovered that before fleeing, many defectors scavenge objects of minimal value that they bring with them to China and sell on arrival. In his video work Evidence (2017), He restages the meticulous process performed by defectors in order to enable the transportation of these objects. Upon this discovery, he collected these objects himself and exhibited them at his solo exhibition at White Cube Bermondsey. In a 2018 conversation with Ocula Magazine, He expressed his initial unease with this project, noting how 'working on the objects meant consuming or exploiting them.'

Born in 1986 in Lianoning, China, He Xiangyu graduated from the Oil Painting Department at Shenyang Normal University in 2008. He has exhibited in numerous exhibitions and biennales around the world, including the Busan Biennale (2014), the Yokahoma Triennale (2014) and the 13th Biennale de Lyon (2015). In 2013, his work was included in 28 Chinese, an exhibition at the Rubell Family Collection in Miami that was the result of six research trips the Rubells made to China between 2001 and 2012, during which time they acquired artwork from 28 artists.

He Xiangyu lives and works in Beijing and Berlin.

Tessa Moldan | Ocula | 2018
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Featured Artworks

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The Swim by He Xiangyu contemporary artwork He XiangyuThe Swim, 2017 SCAI The Bathhouse
Castles by He Xiangyu contemporary artwork He XiangyuCastles, 2017 Bronze
18 x 75 x 57 cm
SCAI The Bathhouse
Nine Lemons by He Xiangyu contemporary artwork He XiangyuNine Lemons, 2016 Pencil, acrylic on paper
65 x 50 cm
SCAI The Bathhouse
Two Lemons by He Xiangyu contemporary artwork He XiangyuTwo Lemons, 2016 Pencil, acrylic on canvas
25 x 20 cm
SCAI The Bathhouse
Everything We Create Is Not Ourselves by He Xiangyu contemporary artwork He XiangyuEverything We Create Is Not Ourselves, 2015 Acid-free oil based marker, ink, pencil, watercolour on paper
164.6 x 138.7 cm
SCAI The Bathhouse
My Fantasy by He Xiangyu contemporary artwork He XiangyuMy Fantasy, 2013 Silicon gel, fiberglass, human hair, cloth, vitrine
180.5 x 118 x 60 cm
SCAI The Bathhouse
Wisdom Tower (A Pretty Girl) by He Xiangyu contemporary artwork He XiangyuWisdom Tower (A Pretty Girl), 2013 Tooth, gold, gold, copper, bamboo stick
8.25 x 2.1 x 2.1 cm
SCAI The Bathhouse

Recent Exhibitions

Contemporary art exhibition, He Xiangyu, Save the Date at SCAI The Bathhouse, Tokyo
28 October–3 December 2016 He Xiangyu Save the Date SCAI The Bathhouse, Tokyo
Contemporary art exhibition, Crossed Beliefs, He Xiangyu at SCAI The Bathhouse, Tokyo
4 October–9 November 2013 Crossed Beliefs He Xiangyu SCAI The Bathhouse, Tokyo

Represented By

In Ocula Magazine

He Xiangyu Ocula Conversation He Xiangyu Artist, China

He Xiangyu's second solo exhibition, Evidence, at White Cube gallery's Bermondsey space in London (7 February–8 April 2018) is somewhat different from the artist's first exhibition with the gallery in 2014 (He Xiangyu: Inside the White Cube, 22 January–13 April 2014). Gone is the crystallised residue of 127 tonnes of Coca-Cola that the artist...

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Philip Tinari Ocula Conversation Philip Tinari Director, Ullens Center for Contemporary Art, Beijing

Philip Tinari, the man Xu Zhen has described as “China’s son-in-law,” really needs no introduction. The Director of the Ullens Center for Contemporary Art (UCCA), (an independent museum in Beijing's 798 Art District with over half a million visitors a year), he is also the founding editor of LEAP, a contributing editor...

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In Related Press

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'Juxtapoz x Superflat', curated by Takashi Murakami, Juxtapoz and Toilet Paper Magazine at Vancouver Art Gallery Related Press 'Juxtapoz x Superflat', curated by Takashi Murakami, Juxtapoz and Toilet Paper Magazine at Vancouver Art Gallery Art Radar Journal : 12 January 2017

Japanese artist Takashi Murakami’s artistic practice is expansive – spilling into fashion, film and other commercial areas. The artist turned to curating in the early 2000s, producing several projects, including Superflat (an exhibition that toured Nagoya Parco Gallery, Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art, Walker Art Center and Henry Art...

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Chinese Contemporary Art Award (CCAA) announces 2016 winners Related Press Chinese Contemporary Art Award (CCAA) announces 2016 winners Art Radar Journal : 2 December 2016

On 15 November 2016 the Chinese Contemporary Art Award (CCAA) announced winners Cao Fei, He Xiangyu and Xu Bing. In its 10th edition, the award was founded in 1997 by pioneering Swiss collector Uli Sigg, who began collecting Chinese contemporary artists in the 1990s.The aim of CCAA is to give awards to Chinese artists and art critics who show...

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Ink Remix at CMAG: Chinese traditions remixed in cutting-edge collection Related Press Ink Remix at CMAG: Chinese traditions remixed in cutting-edge collection The Sydney Morning Herald : 1 July 2015

Delicate brush strokes on paper – calligraphy, lyrical subjects, perhaps woodblock prints on handmade stock.These are the things that most commonly spring to mind when it comes to Chinese ink art – ancient methods and traditional subjects, perhaps reinterpreted in a contemporary context but always recognisable. Recognisable and...

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Fire and forget. On violence Related Press Fire and forget. On violence Domus : 27 June 2015

“Fire and Forget” is a commonly used term in military jargon for weapon systems that are triggered at a safe range from the enemy, and can reach their target independently.It is structured along the four thematic complexes of Borders, Affect, Memory/Remembrance, and Event. The Border motif serves as an introduction to the subject....

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