Monday, April 02, 2007

Remote Control: MOCA Shanghai March 3rd - April 20th 2007

In Mid January I was notified by Thomas Charveriat that we had been invited by the curators, Ella Liao and Wennie Teo, of an exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Shanghai to exhibit two pieces that we had previously collaborated on, F2T and Light Activated Faces. For awhile I had been looking for a good enough excuse to get out to Shanghai and investigate the small empire that Thomas has created for himself there which includes his gallery Island6 Arts Center, this looked like the perfect opportunity.
On the 17th of February I boarded a Finnair flight to Helsinki where I would catch a connecting flight to Shanghai. The voyage went without a hitch and I arrived at Shanghai's Pudong Airport at 8am the morning of the 18th of February, coincidentally Chinese New Years (Year of the Pig). Little did I know as I waltzed through the almost deserted airport to the strains of Kenny G's Christmas album that this was going to wreak havoc on our work schedule as the vast majority of things were closed and people on vacation. I caught a cab and made my way down to Island6 which was to be our command control for the next month. Once there I began to meet the cast of characters that would take part in the process of realizing the works we were to show at the MOCA.

Taxi drive from Pudong International Airport to Island 6 Arts Center

Arriving to Island 6 was a bit of gift because it's not very often that you can go to a foreign country and walk straight into a fully functional work environment. Granted the space we were working ins primary function is that of exhibition and office space not only for Island6 but also for Warehouse Studio, the brainchild Of Lucas and Olivia Gurdjian who would also be fundamental in the development of the visuals and elements of the sound for the projects exhibited in the MOCA. It was a bit tight but we made it work with a bit of patience and reorganizing.
The second day I was there we hit the ground running, this was to be the beginning of a marathon which not only involved the show at the MOCA but also pitching in and lending a hand in mounting the show Platform for Urban Investigation curated by Allard van Hoorn at Island 6 which inaugurated on the 10th of March.

The Place

Island 6 with the sunshine of Moganshan Lu 120 looming in the background. That's Thomas Charveriat, "Sunny" to his friends for his perpetual good moods. He's synonymous with Island 6. His sheer force of will is the driving force behind the whole operation and responsible for the realization of numerous works of art as well as whipping more than a few lazy artists into shape. Beware!

The Cast

Lucas and Olivia Gurdijan

As usual with such an undertaking it's important to be well organized and have a good group of people to provide support. We at least had a good group of people to provide support. Officially credited in the realization of the projects are myself and Thomas as well as Lucas and Olivia Gurdijan,

Super French Design couple Olivia and Lucas Gurdijan of Warehousestudio doing their Mac mind meld.

Yang Longhai
Watch your dumplings!!! Longhai is the go to guy when your looking for something in the studio, always looking to help. His appetite for dumplings is almost as big as his appetite for english curse words. "Shitfuckman.... Shit.... Fuck... Man..." Need he say more?

Zou Shu Shu or Yan or Ian
Ok I thought I was upbeat until I met this guy. Zou Shu makes me look like a Gitane chain smoking, Pernod swigging, black turtlneck wearing exitentialist. Oh and he's multi talented, in this project he rapped as well as was the closest thing to a visual identity our projects had not to mention his skills as a video editor and designer.

Scott Hess
Music and Sound Design

Don't let the foto fool you it was taken at four in the morning when Scott is at his creative best. Scott did a great job of making Yan and my vocal tracks sound pretty damn good, In fact we are planning a tour of Finland in the summer. He's also the man behind turning Olivia and his own girlfriend into electronic temptresses, "Send me message....".

Behind the scenes are three people that that were indispensable:

Zhu Yu Mei Widely known as the Pearl of Shanghai but referred to affectionately as Julie, she works as Thomas' assistant in the gallery and shoulders the brunt of his maniacal behavior. She gets things done and proprietors have been known to close their shops when they see her coming on Bejing do Lu. Her negotiating skills are unrivaled.

Sebastiaan Hanssens
Sebby or just plain old workerslut#2, Gallery intern extraordinaire pictured here googling the alcohol content of Golden Harvest Imperial Quality Beer.

Olivier Verhaeghe de Naeyer workerslut#3, fruit of the loins of the french speaking belgian hinterland and patent holder of the famous Olivier "S" otherwise known as the Verhaeghe de Naeyer knot.

These last two poor slobs normally fell under my jurisdiction, yes me, King workerslut. Your Narrator, King Workerslut, a message to all you pretenders, one day I will come back and occupy my rightful place on the throne of all workersluts! Got that?

No seriously, without their support, good humor and willingness to even do the most menial of tasks the project would have been much more difficult. At 4am during a 16 hour workday it's good to have as many smiling faces and as many bottles of Golden Harvest Imperial Quality Beer around as possible.

Island 6 as an institution shouldered the production costs which I am sure was no small amount as well as my palatial housing set up pictured below.

The Suite of Blissful yet Short Dreams at Chez Charveriat, not to be confused with the Beware All Ye of Feminine Persuasion who Enter Here Suite or the Funny Noises In the Morning Suite. Note the ever present bottle of Golden Harvest Imperial Quality Beer in the lower left hand corner. This precious elixir has the magical powers of endowing one with eternal sobriety.

Also we had a variety of other folks that pitched in too many to mention all of them but the ones below stuck out.

Da Boyz

These are the resident handymen of the gallery. These guys are brillant, I rolled with them to the museum for the installation as you see pictured here. These fellas know how to work hard.

A buddy of Scott's that came in a few evenings with a bright disposition and eager to help. A ceramicist by trade.

The Computer Controlled Router
The unsung hero of the whole affair, how i miss the howling whir of her voice for hours on end. Can anyone say calibrate?

The Works

New versions of F2T and Light Activated Faces (here to forward referred to as LAF) were in order, out with the old and in with the new.

I had brought some of the previously exisiting technology for the projects with me in my suitcase. Some of the elements Thomas had already had realized before my arrival such as new boxes for the light activated faces, each image would have it's own box now where as before we had larger boxes of nine panels each.

Okay as you can imagine I was more than a bit nervous taking this thing through customs. Does it look like art to you?

The process leading up to the exhibit was one of accelerated investigation. We actually did the two projects in a very short period of time. The shortage of time caused us to work with a very short narrow margin of error which can be a very bad thing when working with electronics. The first week was consumed with epic journeys to Bejing Do Lu, which is the hardware district of Shanghai. If your into tools and stuff as I am this was pretty exciting, actually that's an understatement it's like going to tool mecca only you can negotiate the price. These days we literally spent between 4 and 6 hours scouring shops for screws, springs, electronic components , guides, countersinks, solenoids, motors etc. etc. etc.

couldn't begin to explain the variety of shops we saw during that week but at the end I'll tell you I was ready for a break. Thomas has an incredible ability to maintain the appearance that he is absolutely fascinated in the pursuit of just the right screw or the guide with just the right amount of resistance for hours and hours.

Eons after my patience had run out he still had the eyes of a child in a toy store egging me on to go back to the shop where we saw that one component.

To Dibond or not to Dibond

LAF was in this particular instance not as complicated as F2T. With F2T we had made the decision to use a material called Dibond which is composed of two thin sheets of aluminium that sandwich a layer of green plastic. Working with the computer controlled router (CCR), we could engrave the material which would leave the dark plastic exposed and with the aluminium create a very attractive contrast. We did a couple test trials. Alas not enough. Two nights before the load in of the exhibition we did the final cut of one of the pices, previously we had only done outlines. Without the surface being reinforced by the aluminium the whole thing began to bow up in a manner that would make it impossible to work with.
This presented us with quite a dilemna with only 48 hours before load in. Hence on the fly Thomas suggested using the same material that we were using as a support for the whole project which was 3cm thick transparent plexiglass. So we would have one sheet(about 12cm x 180cm)as a support then the other pieces (arms, head/torso and legs) mounted on top with a system of guides, solenoids, washer bearings and pulleys to control the movement. The drawings of the respective figures would be engraved into the surface of the Plexi which then turns a milky white presenting the viewer with ghost like apparitions.

We had three panels, the central figure of the rapper shown on the left, the choir which was composed of three female figures in a somewhat blurry image on the right, and the boom box during the mounting process below.

Installing the day of the show. Documentation by Warehouse Studio

Whilst we were busy downstairs Lucas Gurdijan was upstairs in the room we had for the LAF Installation.

In this particular version we had changed all the sounds and images from the previous versions. Below you have the panels we used. Photo Documentation: Olivier Verhaeghe

In the end this is how the piece looked installed, LAF is a wonderfully accessible piece that brings out people's creative sides and normally a smile to there face.

Photo Documentation: Olivier Verhaeghe