Guan Xiao

Guan Xiao discusses her work in the New Museum triennial “Surround Audience”

Guan Xiao, The Documentary: Geocentric Puncture, 2012, mixed media, 110 1/4 x 90 1/2 x 82 5/8". New Museum, New York.

Guan Xiao (关小), a Beijing-based artist, is known for her mixed-media works that incorporate images and videos sourced online. Her installation The Documentary: Geocentric Puncture, 2012, which juxtaposes camera and surveillance equipment with fake artifacts, is currently on view in third New Museum Triennial, “Surround Audience,” which is on view in New York through May 24, 2015. Here she discusses the evolution of this work.

SINCE MY FIRST SOLO SHOW at Magician Space in Beijing, my work has attempted to use various means of weaving to convey my comprehension of my surroundings—which could be economic, climatic, cinematic, or musical. The key point I am interested in is what kind of methods will convey my understanding of those surroundings. There is an understanding that my work is “post-Internet,” but I don’t love this term. When people are on the Internet, their sensations are compressed into only two dimensions: sight and hearing, that is, picture and voice. Many of my video works make use of the relation and combination of these two dimensions and pass along richer meaning.

In addition, I have developed a stubborn perspective on the “new” and the “old”: What we consider today as new or advanced things are actually things that are ancient or unknown. The incomprehension of the past and unknowns gives rise to intriguing discussion in the present. That’s why I have been prone to putting these extreme things together—the old and new—and making them work together.

I admit that my approach for making videos is quite different from how I make sculpture. For my videos, I have to have a clear idea before I start working; when I work on my sculptures, however, a random feeling always comes prior to the plan—a starting point could just be a subtle sense from an object. My working processes for these two media stride from two ends toward a balanced state in the middle. The Documentary: Geocentric Puncture was a remarkable turning point for me. I realized that, for example, I’d like to place something very new and something very old together. I chose to work with camera tripods. In the beginning I didn’t think about their meaning as objects. I began to think about their physical structures—apparently they are functional, industrial-designed structures, but for me they are a more traditional, classic form. Then I attempted to deal with these objects as if people touched them. This approach imbues the objects with a strong sense of individual existence. Finally, I placed a backdrop behind all these objects, which offers a correlation of seeing and being seen, like in a photo studio. This is also an important element of my sculptural practice: It should always have multiple layers.

I think I belong to the old school, even though I can easily take interest in new things. But only if these things offer me something “constant” that can stir up a kind of true feeling for me. I could not gain any understanding from new things if they lacked this constancy. From this point of view, I guess I am more like an observer: ready to betray this world, while always being loyal to it in my own way.

Translated from Chinese by Qianxi Liu (刘倩兮).