It's Your Moment, Enjoy It- a solo exhibition by Zhang Miao
2018.10.17 - 2018.11.18
Artists: Zhang Miao
It's Your Moment, Enjoy It- a solo exhibition by Zhang Miao

Fundamentally additive, Zhang Miao accepts contradictions and intentionally reintroduces elements and mediums that run counter to modernist taste. Compelled by Robert Venturi’s views on architecture, he embraces a complex, heterogenous art. To look at his work is to sense the contradictions he has fused; flat yet immersive, rational yet decorative, colorful yet sculptural, theatrical yet each work self-reliant. Various mediums are combined indiscriminately and then re-differentiated. The result is further combined and scrutinized again until concrete categories are dissolved and new insight is generated, releasing the art making process from the structure of medium until it verges on character creation.

“There is a difference between knowing the path and walking the path”, said Morpheus in the Matrix. Making art may generate the art of making art. Zhang Miao coins the term “Making” for himself to represent the alchemy of studio practice. He once designed a set of diagrams illustrating the history of architecture with structures from the animal world. Animal habitats are ingenious, unique in every case and aspect, originality, appearance, craft, material, and principle. All these designs nevertheless fall under the single concept of building no matter how elaborate they are. The hermit crabs is an exception because its shell comes from another system, is repurposed. The hermit crab’s vision is free from the past. Art making must break away from established knowledge. For him good or bad, the quality of an artwork is pre-determined by  this measure.

Architecture has two realms of existence: in reality and on paper. Zhang Miao learns from architectural drawing, he begins by flattening out his perception and cognition. Admittedly, reducing the dimensions to two means subtraction, but by opening up a field of associations it becomes a method of addition. Compare this to the barrage of real-time commentary from audiences suspended above an online video. The fun is to compete for the most far-out perspective, in other words, never address the issue but make outrageous associations from it. Is this not also a form of seeing freely? Our modernist pioneers may roll in their graves at such a twisting of their words. As the artist put his mediums in quotation marks, the flattened paintings and sculptures become stage props. Props have no qualities beyond the roles they are assigned; now painting and sculpture like parts can be assembled freely in whatever way desired. Art making, however, is like playing a game, there must be rules to follow for it to be fun. Paradoxically, to discard the essence of medium may be the way to reserve its binding force.

For Zhang Miao, the exhibition title always precedes a project, an entire visual scene is complete in his head before he begins working. His own exceptional creativity as an artist however is held in check, as he has extremely rigorous standards for dos and don’ts. Like a detective tracking down a suspect, he lays out on the wall of his studio a route map of works and thoughts, interrogating artists in the past, masters of modern history that he admires. To be an artist, one has to first stop parroting and avoid the binary logic of “either-or”. To say “no” to, is not to negate or reject, quite the contrary, Zhang Miao says, to say “no” is to take. What he really wants to create in art making is freedom within the mind. The art he aspires to is formless and outside of an artwork.

The exhibition space is a “shack” designed by Zhang Miao, intending to show the invisible connection between the works. Art is a building without a door— he adopts this conviction from another architect, John Hejduk, quite the opposite of Venturi’s inclusiveness. If a visitor, according to Hejduk, cannot find the door to his building, it means he or she is not yet permitted to enter. By now one cannot deny the effective relationship produced by participatory works of art on viewers, but just as Hajduk did not believe that architecture can offer an once-and-for-all solution to human existence, Zhang Miao has little faith in interactive effects alone to advance thinking. Instead of trying to immerse the viewer, he chooses to remind them of the gap, by placing a fictitious gesture (resulting in a loud clang) in the exhibition. Like the MacGuffin a film director uses to drive a plot, it plays a role, but does not try to substitute for the content of the work.