Critics’ Picks

Jiang Zhi, Things would turn nails once they happened, 2008, color transparency on light box, 59 x 78 3/4".

Jiang Zhi, Things would turn nails once they happened, 2008, color transparency on light box, 59 x 78 3/4".

Beijing

“Building Code Violations II”

Long March Space 长征空间
798 Art Zone, No. 4 Jiuxianqiao Road, Chaoyang District
March 1–May 5, 2008

“Building Code Violations II” takes as its starting point the tension between building outside and within legally sanctioned codes, and the increasingly complicit relationship between the two. Thematically, the work of the exhibition’s thirty-plus participants oscillates between explicit and loose interpretations of this premise. Works by Jiang Zhi and Hong Hao—respectively, a photograph of an infamous Chongqing home whose owners refused to relocate as developers gutted their surroundings, and a series of oil paintings rendering satellite images of anonymous coordinates as duo-toned diptychs—are obvious explorations of the metaphor expressed as urban planning. Intensely candid video work from Zhang Qing and Kum Soni fleshes out the interpersonal trauma of tracing hard and fast lines within societies.

The show is mostly weighted around major three-dimensional works: notably, Huang Kuan and Wei Xuebing’s CSP-TY1-1010, 2008, and Liu Wei’s Porcelain III, 2006. In CSP-TY1-1010, a long metal tube—fallen debris collected from a Chinese spacecraft—impales the sidecar of a motorcycle, ascending toward the ceiling in a not-so-subtle probe of the residual violence of state enterprises. By re-creating a warhead as a set of stacked, oversize porcelain dishes, Porcelain III both subverts the destruction represented by such objects and encodes a sinister new plurality into otherwise-benign domestic ephemera.

Although aspects of the show are intentionally and unintentionally rough around the edges, “Building Code Violations II” is articulate, possessing a relevance not linked to obvious critical buzzwords. Ample connective tissue between the works channels an identifiable curatorial thrust, perhaps even overwhelmingly so in places with densely installed artworks. But in those cases, Yang Zhenzhong’s intervention can be counted on as a universal democratizer. A work titled Long March Circuit Breaker, 2008, is just that: a fully functional and comically oversize switch occasionally engaged by curious visitors who shut down the entire building’s electricity supply, leaving guests and staff alike in the dark.