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IFP exhibits at MAXXI Museum in Rome

Institute for Provocation has been invited to exhibit at MAXXI Museum of Art for the 21st Century in Rome, Italy. The show is a part of The Independent, a research project initiated by MAXXI's artistic director Hou Hanru, focussing on the output and impact of independent movements and organisations in the visual arts, On the opening day of October 12th, there will be a panel discussion with Chen Shuyu and Max Gerthel from IFP, Hou Hanru, curator Elena Motisi and Emanuele Barili, director of a China-focussed art platform in Italy.

The Project: Space Odyssey

How can an art space present itself and its activities, community and actions without entering into the dilemmas associated with representation? How to transmit the energy of an independent space into the institutional walls of a museum?

With the wallpaper installation in the Foyer Guido Reni we want to transmit the physical environment of the IFP Studio and unfold its layers of history and micro-social activity. The courtyard where IFP is located was built by a wealthy salt dealer who was also a minister during the Qing Dynasty. After 1949, it was taken over by the Ministry of Coal and Mining and turned to be a residential compound for its officials from high to low. But over the last 50 years of social transition, it declined gradually from a secure and intimate socialist neighborhood into a Da Zayuan (“messy” tenement courtyard). The IFP Studio is a pavilion which was used originally as the master’s library and for receiving guests. Now this pavilion forms an important role as the physical framework of IFP's activities, and is used for co-working, meeting and public events.

Looking back at the past seven years, the output of IFP is as diverse as it is cohesive. As the mission statement declares, our work revolves around the following question: What can independent forms of artistic and architectural research contribute to society as a whole and what kind of organizational forms can be established to accommodate these processes? The exhibition presents our space as a common meeting place, as a container and catalyst of actions, reflections and discourse. Inside this space there are keywords and references to artists, architects and researchers who have stayed at IFP, as well as to our self-initiated projects. In the bookshelves there is a selection of publications from other Beijing-based independent art spaces. Just as IFP is based on the idea of cross-disciplinary and cross-boundary interaction, this exhibition proposes spatial and cultural displacement as a medium and a method for knowledge transfer and thought provocation.

The audience is invited to explore the wallpaper, browse our publications, watch the videos and join the discussion of the research project Tetris by putting their own tags of keywords onto the wallpaper.

Institute for Provocation (IFP) is a Beijing based independent art organization and project space founded in 2010. Combining the study of theory and artistic practice, IFP aims to combine cross-disciplinary knowledge and stimulate cultural exchange and production in a collective approach. IFP organizes and supports various kinds of activities, including artist residency, research projects, discussions, exhibition making, workshops, publications and more on the basis of our interest in the artistic processes as an alternative form of knowledge production.

Through a wide network of artists, researchers and makers in China and beyond, IFP can provide intelligence to incoming residents and collaborators who themselves become part of the network. We reckon the interaction between practice of residence artists and IFP’s institutional practice are constantly in a relationship of mutual provocation, friction and cooperation. The IFP is an organism traveling at the speed of thought exchange, exploring what art can be and do for wider range of viewers through its inputs and outputs.


In 2010, Chen Shuyu (CN) and Els Silvrants-Barclay (BE) founded Institute for Provocation in Beijing. IFP evolved out of Theater in Motion, a platform for performing arts projects originally established by Els Silvrants-Barclay in 2005, as an institute with the aim of supporting a range of cultural projects linked together by artistic research methods and multidisciplinary approaches. In 2011, the architect Max Gerthel (SE) joined the organization and contributed to IFP’s expansion with new partnerships, residencies and public events in the current location in the old city centre. After the opening its project space Black Sesame Space in 2014, IFP has become one of the city's newly established independent art spaces, producing a number of experimental exhibitions, performances and projects in collaboration with local and international artists every year.

Since 2017 Institute for Provocation takes the form as a collective consisting of Members: architect/editor Chen Shuyu, art critic/editor Song Yi, curator/writer Dai Xiyun and artist Hu Wei; Advisors: architect/designer/curator Max Gerthel, curator Els Silvrants-Barclay and curator/researcher/artist Umi; and Collaborators: artist/curator Tianji Zhao, Alessandro Rolandi and more.

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