by Mat Tomezsko
On Wednesday, November 20 at 9:00pm DJ Apt One will discuss sampling and cultural re-appropriation in dance and electronic music, something he knows a thing or two about. In 2011 he produced a collection of beats for DJs called “T&A Breaks 3: Moombahton Loops and Samples.” One of his breakbeats was used by DJ Baauer for “The Harlem Shake,” which swept youtube and nightclubs earlier this year.
As a producer, DJ Apt One makes mixes by delving into various recordings and isolating parts of the tracks to be used in new and interesting ways. Essentially a sound collage, a new composition is woven using pieces taken from outside sources. Despite being made entirely of existing material, the mix transforms the elements into an original track. Sometimes a recognizable reference, sometimes highly obscure, there are many different ways to sample and appropriate music, achieving many different effects. Come to CAVECAST 011 on November 20th to learn more about this process.
Also, check us out in the November issue of Philadelphia Magazine, in which CAVECAST earned the distinction of being “worth doing after dark”.
Mat Tomezsko is the Programs and Events Coordinator at the Philadelphia Art Alliance.
By Joanna Grim and Christine Tang
If The Way of Chopsticks has piqued your interest in contemporary Chinese art, check out these exhibitions currently on view at The Asian Arts Initiative and the Leonard Pearlstein Gallery (located in the Westphal College of Media Arts & Design’s URBN Annex at Drexel University).
Hua Hua Zhang: A solo exhibition of new works by Hua Hua Zhang, master puppet theater artist and sculptor is on view at The Asian Arts Initiative now through January 24th, 2013. The show presents sculptures and other works, including masks and shadow puppets, by the Bejing-born, classically trained puppeteer and celebrated performer Hua Hua Zhang. At the opening reception held on Friday, November 1, at the Asian Arts Initiative, Hua Hua explained how she views her work as crossing the boundaries between sculpture and performance. On display, the potential for movement and story emanate from what Hua Hua calls her “living sculptures.” Removed from their podiums and expertly manipulated by Hua Hua or one of the talented members of her Philadelphia-based performance company, Visual Expressions, the puppet-sculptures indeed come to life. A short performance given during the opening reception began with the draping fabric dress of a puppet suspended from the ceiling, and enclosing another puppet reclining beneath it, beginning to sway in a breeze generated by a large hand fan. The gentle movements of the fabric woke the sleeping puppet who nonetheless remained within a kind of dream-state. As if experiencing a heightened sense of a mind-body split, the puppets head slowly separated from its body, leaving the body to perform a moving dance of self-discovery. This short performance demonstrated how Hua Hua’s work combines traditional Chinese stories and imagery, including an emphasis on dreams, with more modern, perhaps Western, themes and styles (for example, one puppet, a rhinoceros, was made out of plastic tarps, in place of another more traditional material) in an effort to explore the conflicted emotions, the pain but also the rewards, of leaving one culture and becoming part of another. Click here for more information on The Asian Arts Initiative and Hua Hua’s exhibition.
Audiences are welcomed to join the Philadelphia Art Alliance for another opportunity to see Hua Hua’s work come to life. In conjunction with the Way of Chopsticks exhibition, on view through December 29th, Hua Hua and Visual Expressions will perform an original piece of shadow puppet theatre, Adventure of the Stone Monkey, at the PAA at 5pm on December 7th. All ages are encouraged to attend. Click here for more information and to register!
And don’t forget to join us this Saturday, November 16th, from 10-11:30am for a The Way of Calligraphy, an introductory calligraphy workshop for children and adults ages 7 and older taught by Hua Hua Zhang at the PAA. Learn about calligraphy and make your own works to take home and see the Way of Chopsticks exhibition. Click here for more information and to register. We hope to see you there!
The Start of a Long Journey: The Collection of Excellent Alumni Works from China Central Academy of Fine Arts, runs through November 22nd at the Leonard Pearlstein Gallery. The show features sixty works of art, including paintings, sculptures, and video, from 24 young alumni of the China Central Academy of Fine Arts (CAFA), China’s foremost Fine Arts Academy.
Much of the work on view in this exhibition aims to analyze and evaluate the previous era of Chinese art, which, according to Alex McKechnie of Drexel University, was influenced “by the intellectual trends during the Cold War period as well as traditional Chinese wisdom.” However, these emerging artists do more than evaluate the previous era of Chinese art. Through their work, they also examine issues and conflicts of life in China today and the feelings these issues and conflicts elicit. In this way, The Start of a Long Journey relates to The Way of Chopsticks, which also explores and comments on contemporary Chinese society, though through the more personal perspective of the experiences of artists Song Dong and Yin Xiuzhen.
Three notable pieces include “The Elephant Series,” “How Are You,” and “The Growth of Emptiness.” “The Elephant Series” by Zhang Yifan examines the deliberately ignored dangers born from modernization in present-day China. Although modernization in China may prove beneficial, one cannot ignore the explicit risks taken. For example, a recent building collapse was found to be a result of a faulty foundation, and air pollution in Beijing has worried environmentalists for years. Zhang explains that the light and crisp presentation of all-too-common scenes in China today contribute to the illusion of superficial peace and harmony that masks the unaddressed but present dangers.
The vibrantly colored canvas of Du Pengjiao’s “How Are You” perfectly captures how the rise of social media and technology creates intricate webs of connection and relationships. Another work, Sun Mou’s “The Growth of Emptiness,” seems to grow out of a blank canvas. From a distance, the image resembles a nerve cell, a neuron, a minuscule yet vital part of the body. Delicate, lightly colored lines gracefully span the canvas, creating an illusion of emptiness and hollowness. Upon closer inspection, these lines reveal themselves to be stems of vegetation or thin branches of trees that are, also, vital to the Earth. The parallels between the neuron and tree branches as well as the “simplicity of nature,” in Sun Mou’s words, influence the viewer to question the life all around us and to not look at the forest for the trees, so to speak.
The Start of a Long Journey presents these and other brilliant works by talented emerging artists. Dr. Joseph Gregory, Chair of the Department of Art & Art History, hopes that this cultural exchange will facilitate greater understanding between China and the United States.
During The Way of Chopsticks exhibition, Beijing born, Philadelphia-based artist Hua Hua Zhang is collaborating with the PAA on workshops and performances that will allow audiences to further explore Chinese art and culture. Hua Hua Zhang is a celebrated artist trained in both the classical traditions of Chinese puppetry as well as modern forms of puppetry and theatre. Her work bridges the realms of sculpture and performance and draws upon Chinese tradition as well as personal experience. She is also a teaching artist specializing in introducing American audiences to traditional Chinese art forms.
On the morning of Saturday, November 16th, Hua Hua will be teaching The Way of Calligraphy, an introductory workshop on Chinese calligraphy. The PAA invites adults and children ages 7 and older to join in. Click here to register!
Click here for information on Hua Hua Zhang’s current exhibition of “living sculptures” at the Asian Arts Initiative. And don’t miss her production of Adventure of the Stone Monkey: A Shadow Puppet Performance, on December 7th at the PAA!
Interested in calligraphy? Read more below.
by Mat Tomezsko
During the installation of Chopsticks III at Chambers Fine Art in New York in 2011, 8-year-old Song ErRui approached her parents, Song Dong and Yin Xiuzhen, and expressed her interest in joining their artistic collaboration. Up until that point, The Way of Chopsticks had been a project exclusively between Song Dong and Yin Xiuzhen. It was a meditation on married life and family designed to maintain complete artistic autonomy for both of the artists involved. Chopsticks serve as a metaphor for two equal individuals coming together to form something greater. The concept shatters with a third chopstick, but they were still intrigued by their daughter’s offer.
After considering the idea for some time, they decided to give it a try for their next exhibition. For The Way of Chopsticks at the Philadelphia Art Alliance, each of the three family members made a chopstick for the group called Third Chopstick. It offers three distinct points of view with each insight being compounded by the next. Taken together, the three pieces offer an impressively complex view of contemporary family life.
For her chopstick, Yin Xiuzhen, chose to depict a dizi, which is a traditional Chinese flute. The dizi, typically made of bamboo, was commonly used in Chinese folk music and was traditionally associated with the common people. The dizi Yin Xiuzhen has made is long, thin and made of chrome with a tail pipe and a muffler attached to each end, a reference to the well-known smog crisis in Beijing, which perhaps implies that the music produced by this instrument will be toxic. The piece simultaneously evokes a beautiful and humble tradition rooted in nature and the noxious environmental consequences of expansion and wealth in contemporary China. While praising the beauty of Chinese culture, Yin Xiuzhen is also criticizing the present conditions, for fear of what her daughter and her daughter’s generation may lose in the future.
Song Dong’s chopstick reflects his interest in fake electronics, which, while making reference to the pervasive presence of cheap knock-off products in Chinese society, also reveals his affinity for good-natured trickery. The chopstick has, at first glance, the appearance of a complicated high-tech device. However, upon closer examination, it becomes hilariously implausible as a functioning object. It is covered in useless knobs and old remote controls, and there is a keyboard simply tacked onto the side. There is, however, a functioning GPS device that periodically blurts out directions. Song Dong has expressed that this sculpture was made to represent his attitude toward his daughter, whom he wishes to control, but cannot. Since all of the devices are incorrect and useless, he has endowed her with a GPS so she can at least always find her way home.
Song ErRui modeled her chopstick after a wolf. She saved the hair from her shedding dogs to create two bands of fur running the length of the sculpture. There are ears attached and drawn-on eyes and teeth. The sculpture essentially takes the form of an elongated wolf head. Her fascination with wolves is quite sophisticated for an 11-year-old. She identifies with wolves because they are inherently social creatures, however, as the only child of parents who both come from large families, she feels like a lone wolf. This idea can be extrapolated to the issue of the One Child policy currently in place in China. After millennia of a society based on social and communal principles, the fundamental structure of the culture is being forcibly changed by the state. Suddenly, there is a nation of individuals, and perhaps individualists.
While the idea of a third chopstick may shatter the surface level metaphor presented by The Way of Chopsticks, in practice, adding another dimension expands the scope of the project exponentially. Once each chopstick is understood, they can then be understood in relation to one another, thus deepening the meaning. Yin Xiuzhen and Song Dong are commenting on Chinese society, but they are also concerned about their daughter. At the same time, you hear their daughter’s concerns, her own interpretation of society, and her view of the future. In addition, the structure of three chopsticks is maybe a more perfect resemblance of the asymmetry found in real life; when you open a drawer, you do not find your utensils neatly paired. Song Dong and Yin Xiuzhen’s dynamic as a pair was permanently altered with the addition of their daughter. Song ErRui brings a welcome and enriching change to their art as well.
The Way of Chopsticks is on view at The Philadelphia Art Alliance September 12 – December 29, 2013.
The Way of Chopsticks: Song Dong ＋Yin Xiuzhen is represented by Chambers Fine Art in New York City and Beijing.
Mat Tomezsko is the Programs and Events Coordinator at the Philadelphia Art Alliance
Writer, curator, and Director of Ullens Center for Contemporary art in Beijing Philip Tinari gave a talk on Beijing’s 798 Art District, one of the most interesting and vibrant in Contemporary Art. He spoke at The Philadelphia Art Alliance on October 3, 2013.
CaveCast returns from a brief summer hiatus for a fall schedule packed with good times and hometown favorites, beginning with a 50′s Dance Party with DJ SnKpaK on Wednesday, September 18th.
Holly Sue Allen aka DJ SnKpaK will take us to the 1950′s with stories and the records she uses for her Bouffant Bangout and Fascination parties. Holly will cover Surf, Psych, Garage, and good old fashioned Rock n Roll while getting at the gems left of center. Always a forward thinking DJ and record digger, Holly is the perfect guest host to kick off our second season.
DJ SnKpaK started Bouffant Bangout five years ago at the Barbary. She built the 50s and 60s dance party as a single DJ into a full on spectacle with dance contests, go-go dancers, a co-host, and guest DJs. Snackpack also started a weekly Wednesday party at the Dolphin Tavern called Fascination where she blends all music that moves her, from post punk and new wave to hip hop and contemporary sounds. Last but not least, Holly Sue joins the Rock Tits crew as an honorary Rock Tot to DJ Making Time events.
On Friday, October 4th, DJ, writer, producer, and music lover DEL returns for the second installment of his three-part series exploring dance music from the Foundations to the Formative Years to Where we are Now. In the first episode, DEL took us through his personal experience growing up with dance music in Philadelphia in the 70s, a journey from the Soul Survivors to Billy Kennedy and Walter Gibbons and to legendary clubs Second Story and Catacombs. We can’t wait for the next chapter!
CaveCast continues through the fall and into the winter with DJ Apt One discussing cultural re-appropriation within music on Wednesday November 20th, and Ed Blammo‘s discussion of cover versions on Wednesday, December 18th.
DJ Apt One is and has been on the forefront of many important movements in dance music over the last ten years. He was a part of the multi-genre style of DJing that catapulted his adopted Philadelphia to the pinnacle of the DJ world in the early 2000s. His years of seasoning as a DJ have seen him play all styles imaginable all across the US and Europe.
Ed Blammo, a Philly bred DJ, likes to keep things simple. Two turntables, a mixer, and quality music are all he needs to rock the party or set the vibe. He’s played in clubs across the country, shared stages with the likes of Kid Cudi and Foster The People, and holds down several hometown residencies including the annual Dre Day party on he and Dre’s shared birthday, February 18th.
Stoli Vodka has signed on to join Spodee as an official sponsor of CaveCast and they have provided us with a list of cocktail recipes, so this means you can expect interesting and delicious beverages at every CaveCast event.
We hope to see you all season long. All podcasts are available to stream from our website, or you can download or subscribe using iTunes.
Wednesday, September 18th, 8pm
CAVECAST 009: 50′s Dance Party
Special Guest – Holly Sue Allen aka DJ SnKpaK
Friday, October 4th, 8pm
CAVECAST 010: Foundations for the philaDELphia Groove – The Formative Years
Special Guest – DEL
Wednesday, November 20th, 8pm
CAVECAST 011: Sampling and Cultural Re-appropriation
Special Guest – DJ APT ONE
Wednesday, December18th, 8pm
CAVECAST 012: Cover Versions
Special Guest – Ed Blammo
by Mat Tomezsko
The Way of Chopsticks is an ongoing collaborative project between Beijing-based artists Song Dong and Yin Xiuzhen. Married in 1992, each artist has gained prominence and acclaim for their individual, accomplished careers. The Chopsticks project began in 2001 as a celebration of their ten-year wedding anniversary, as well as the ten-year anniversary of the first time their work was exhibited together. Inspired by the idea that it takes two chopsticks working together in order to function properly, the pair of artists decided to collaborate on a pair of chopsticks sculptures. In isolation from one another and without discussing concept or technique, each artist created one chopstick. When brought together, two unique sculptures become one, unified work. In this way, The Way of Chopsticks celebrates the communal nature of family and married life while simultaneously recognizing the importance of individuality.
The first manifestation of their collaboration, Chopsticks, was exhibited at Chambers Fine Art in New York City in 2002. The couple worked together to create the titular pair of chopsticks, along with varied multi-media installations, all of which, according to a statement from the artists, explored the “theme of Eating, Drinking, Playing and Happiness.” The exhibition included an interactive piece called The Desirable Prize: Ping-Pong, in which the audience was invited to compete in a ping-pong tournament for an artist-made prize, as well as an hour-long meta-video of the two artists filming each other filming each other called Self-Shot. While the artists made the chopsticks separately, they made the rest of the installations together, with a tone of celebration, playfulness, and mutual admiration.
The second exhibition in their collaboration, The Way of Chopsticks, exhibited at Chambers Fine Art in 2006, continued the exploration of duality through painting, video, and multi-media installations. The work reflects a change in the nature of their collaboration; in the first exhibition, the artists worked together on the installations, in The Way of Chopsticks, the artists worked separately on every piece. The exhibition featured a pair of chopsticks 25 feet long, again made without discussion of any detail save for an agreed upon size. Another piece, One into Two, was made from Song Dong’s childhood bed, with which he grew up, and in which the couple slept together when visiting Song Dong’s parents. They cut the bed in two and each altered half. This act reflected that the furniture represented different things to them since they’ve had their own distinct experiences with it.
Chopsticks III, exhibited at Chambers Fine Art in 2011, celebrated Song Dong and Yin Xiuzhen’s twentieth wedding anniversary and the tenth year of the collaborative project. For this exhibition, the artists continued working under the established guidelines of their collaboration, creating work independently, and then combining it into a single work.
They produced a pair of chopsticks 40 feet long, dividing each into twelve sections. They both drew inspiration from the urban structures of Beijing and chose colors to compliment the theme: Imperial Yellow (Yin Xiuzhen) and the Red of the Chinese flag (Song Dong). The structure of Yin Xiuzhen’s chopstick reflects the cranes commonly seen in the Beijing skyline indicating new construction. The exterior of Song Dong’s chopstick is relatively mundane, while the interior, through video and miniature diorama-like constructions, intricately illustrate scenes of everyday life in Beijing.
After ten years of the Chopsticks project, the artists have adjusted to one another’s methods. In Chopsticks III, we see a more cohesive collaboration than in the previous exhibitions. They have successfully learned to create art together while maintaining complete creative independence.
For the next installment of the project, The Way of Chopsticks at the Philadelphia Art Alliance, Song Dong and Yin Xiuzhen have invited their eleven-year-old daughter, Song ErRui, to participate. The three family members have each made chopsticks for the exhibition. In addition, the exhibition will include work that is an expansion of One into Two, as well as work made completely independent from one another. The artists and their daughter have each made work in reaction to the Wetherill Mansion, feeling that the domestic history of the space is complementary to the themes of family, individuality, and interdependence present in The Way of Chopsticks.
For additional reading about Chopsticks, check out these articles:
The Way of Chopsticks: Song Dong ＋Yin Xiuzhen is represented by Chambers Fine Art in New York City and Beijing.
Mat Tomezsko is the Programs and Events Coordinator at the Philadelphia Art Alliance
PAA staff recently rediscovered a treasure trove of old letterpress blocks depicting scenes of historic Philadelphia that date from the 1920s. Many of these blocks were created by etcher, lithographer, and illustrator Joseph Pennell (above, left) who was born on July 4th, 1857 in Philadelphia. Pennell studied at the Philadelphia Industrial Art School (now University of the Arts) and at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art. He lived much of his life in London where he taught at the Slade School of Art. Pennell was a friend and colleague of James McNeill Whistler, and published a biography of the artist in 1908 with his wife Elizabeth Robins Pennell.
Each block is cast in lead or copper and mounted on a wooden backing, lovely objects in their own right. The blocks were originally used to create various printed material for PAA, including newsletters, calendars, and souvenir postcards.
Basement Press, a collaboration between Eli VandenBerg (above, right) and Katie Baldwin, has teamed up with PAA to bring these blocks back to life. You can now purchase your very own print here in our Shop! They are individually hand-colored, and each one depicts a landmark or neighborhood in Philadelphia and environs. Rich in detail and period charm, they are atmospheric and lovely.
We hope Mr. Pennell would be proud.
ON VIEW SEPTEMBER 12, 2013 TO DECEMBER 29, 2013 Created by Song Dong and Yin Xiuzhen, two of China’s most acclaimed contemporary artists, The Way of Chopsticks is a site-specific, three-story installation of sculpture and video, exploring domestic life, modern family life in the US and China, and cultural shifts in contemporary China. The Wetherill Mansion, a former private residence, and current home of the Philadelphia Art Alliance, has inspired the internationally renowned Beijing-based husband-and-wife artists to come to Philadelphia with their 11-year-old daughter, Song ErRui, to create a new addition to their ongoing series of celebrated chopstick sculptures, as well as a dual-screen video installation that explores the evolution of family dynamics from 1970s China under Mao Zedong to the only-child-oriented present day. From a familial, cultural and generational perspective, The Way of Chopsticks explores this significant cultural shift toward a nation of individuals, using a domestic setting to explore these complex ideas. “Early in their lives, the artists grew up largely disconnected from the West; in the China of their childhood, families were large, and individuality was suspect,” says senior curator Sarah Archer. “Their daughter’s 21st-century Chinese girlhood is vastly different: Song ErRui is bilingual in English and Mandarin, an avid basketball fan, and, thanks to her parents’ occupation, a sophisticated world traveler. The Way of Chopsticks addresses this fascinating generational divide with aplomb, referencing objects we encounter on the smallest cultural scale — the household — to explore a story that affects their entire nation.” Song Dong has been a prominent figure in the Chinese art world since the early 1990s when he first came to attention through performances such as Breathing, in which Song Dong lay face down breathing on the surfaces of Tian’anmen Square and the frozen lake in front of the Forbidden City, changing slightly and fleetingly his environment with his body, leaving nothing lasting but a photographic record.
Song Dong’s conceptually based practice embraces performance, installation, video, and photography. His subject matter is always highly personal, based on his own life experience and that of his family. Recent important exhibitions include Waste Not (2009), exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), which displayed over 15,000 of his mother’s possessions accumulated over 50 years. Unwilling to throw anything away, her obsessive thriftiness ended up providing a documentation of everyday objects throughout a time of great cultural change in China. Similarly, The Wisdom of Poor People 2005-2011, exhibited at the Ullens Center for Contemporary Art (UCCA), and Beijing, in 2011, highlights the ingenuity and clever use and reuse of objects, property, and space by the poor living in the now-quickly-disappearing Beijing hutongs.
Yin Xiuzhen was one of China’s first female artists to gain recognition in the early 1990s. Conceptually oriented and active in performance and installations throughout China and internationally, Yin Xiuzhen’s work concerns environmental issues and family and daily life experience in Beijing. Although she works in many media, she is widely recognized for her use of textiles as in Collective Subconscious, exhibited at MoMA, New York in 2010, which featured a bisected minibus elongated by a tunnel-like-hallway woven from second-hand garments and fabric sourced from family and friends in Beijing. The audience is invited to enter into the interior, where pleasant music is playing and which contains benches. Being made physically of a once ubiquitous mode of transportation, and formerly stylish articles of clothing, the piece reflects the rapid pace of change and growing materialism and consumerism of Beijing society, as well as the growing disregard for environmental protection and conservation. Since 2001, the Beijing-based husband-and-wife artists, who each have distinct and thriving careers of their own, have collaborated on a signature long-term conceptual art project that balances the importance of independence and partnership: They create singular large-scale chopstick sculptures, built according to certain agreed-upon parameters but completed in isolation. Neither artist knows what the other will do until the final sculptures are revealed and joined together. The artists believe that chopsticks serve as an ideal metaphor for family: Just like the everyday domestic objects they create, they feel they could not function — creatively or as parents — without each other.
Please join us throughout the exhibition for programs and special events including artist talks, food tastings, gallery tours, and hands-on workshops for the whole family. To see a full list of programs and events, click here.
Please join us at the Opening Reception on Thursday, September 12th, 7-9pm.