November was a buzzy month for art in Shanghai, with a who’s-who of art fairs and events carving a wide swath across the cultural landscape over a single weekend. At the crux of this was the opening of Shanghai Biennale, an event for which PSA brought in Delhi’s Raq Media Collective on curatorial duty in order to “move beyond the trend of conversations between ‘East and West.’”
And it did not disappoint. This year’s biennale is a diverse and dense mix spanning countries and concerns. It has enough goodies crammed into it to merit multiple visits, even if you don’t consider yourself an art expert.
Raq does an excellent job of facilitating a diverse round-up of artists across South Asia and the Middle East. Among our many favorites are Ayesha Jatoi’s simple yet powerful protest piece and whimsical drawings by artist Gagandeep Singh done directly on the museum walls. Politically-charged pieces like Vinu VV’s “Noon Rest” - a thin tree marred by a dozen sickles with names and castes carved into their handles - become supercharged with significance when displayed in China, and expound on the shared history and potential for understanding between the regions.
That’s not to say all this art is only politics and academic commentary, though there will inevitably always be some. But there are a handful of installations that feel more akin to Disneyland rides.
For most, MouSen+MSG’s eerie installation on the second floor would be worth the trip on its own. Conceived as connecting three historical points and lengthily titled “The Great Chain of Being - Planet Theory,” it’s a dark and trippy labyrinth of strobe lights, soundscapes, linguistic weirdness and space-age pioneerism. It goes on forever, and luckily you can go back through as many times as you want - no FastPass needed.
For whatever motivates you to go see visual art - whether it’s for probing extrapolation from diverse artistic perspectives or to rack up those sweet, sweet WeChat Moments likes - we can’t recommend this year’s Biennale enough. PSA and Raq even the playing field by allowing Asian contemporary art to do most of the talking - a rarity in major art exhibitions even in 2016.
What: 11th Shanghai Biennale
Where: Power Station of Art, 200 Huayuangang Lu (near Miaojiang Lu)
When: Through Sun, Mar. 12, 2017
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