Year of the hoax

RossYearOx1Friday night the temperature dropped drastically and high in the sky the gods were brewing ice tea. There I was, in the chilly V&A entrance hall, sitting on a chair abandoned by the security staff, listening to some cheesy Chinese pop while munching on prawn crackers. I originally came here for a I-Ching reading but the cosmos was obviously closed to me that evening: I was turned down on The Way to the National Art Library where the ancient Chinese divination was taken place. When I enquired about the performances, I was given the first names of the three oracles and was told, for some obscure reason, that ‘this is all we can provide’.

The I-Ching readings were part of the Late Friday event at the V&A celebrating the Chinese New Year and its ‘rituals of folk-futurism’, curated by Jen Wu and presenting a mix of performance, video and sonic acts from the contemporary art scene of China and the UK. As I wandered through the labyrinthine corridors of the museum, I came across some video and sound installations in the most unlikely places, such as Lu Chunsheng’s vision of contemporary China in the gallery overlooking the Trajan’s column and casts from the vestiges of Western art history, or Yan Jun’s Local Listening, forty pieces of field recordings transmitted to the audience through headphones in one corner of the grand Raphael gallery. The collage of everyday life sounds coming out of these i-pods in front of the Raphael cartoons were strangely captivating – I even got carried away with making bizarre connections between the divine stories and the mundane sound narratives. At one moment, I could hear the rising clamour of the crowd that had formed aroud Saint Paul preaching at Athens and the bust of Pope Leo X had now a sudden air of Kublai Khan. The sound/visual and cultural juxtapositions were, however, not as absurd as one would have expected and the randomness of experience it created with the audience – who was obviously enjoying as much as me – linked the pieces back to the original idea underlying the event, bringing chance, mysticism and dream together in a East-meet-West connection. Unfortunately, most of the pieces in the show weren’t as convincing as Yan Jun’s. The contemporary futurologist themes coated with oriental mystic sauce made The Year of the Ox look more like a covered attempt by the V&A to dip in the currently oh so fashionable Chinese art scene than a soundly curated multi-cultural event. They did offer good home-made crackers though.


~ by lavivette on February 2, 2009.

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