Institute for Provocation will present Ma Jianfeng’s solo project – The U-Cloister.
Time and Location
Opening Party: 2018.03.16 4pm
2018.03.16 – 2018.03.31
Institute for Provocation·Black Sesame Space
Hei Zhima Hutong No.13, Dongcheng District, Beijing
A constellation of walls, floors, and hangings acts as the foundation for Ma Jianfeng’s current show, creating a three-dimensional material and spatial experience by interweaving indistinct imagery and abstract symbols with artifacts and artworks. It is undeniable that we cannot use words such as sculpture, mural, or “environmental installation” to describe this presentation, the same as the artist himself has always done. The specific scenes that emerge from the artist’s contextualization and appropriation seem to emphasize the usefulness of the works as a crucial part of the ritual in this “judgement ground”, purposefully presenting these barbarous, rough, primitive and totemized images and objects like tools, with mysterious “protocols” of use. Yet they are simultaneously autonomous artworks, independent from any functionality and purpose. Ma’s practice points to the directions of the transmissions of tensions between image and fact via actions, thus emphasizing the significance of manipulation to his practice. Most interestingly, in his search for integrity and abstraction in variation, we can regard abstraction as both artistic extraction and philosophical problem, and as a method (of politics) and socio-economic force for Ma.
On one hand, Ma’s works establish and destabilize the configurational relations between understanding, imagination, and embodiment, thus opening up a field of ambiguity. This space of manipulated ambiguity is generative, and it produces possibilities for the orientation of thought. Therefore from our perspective, besides purifying and extracting the complex image-object relations, abstraction can also be activated by the mutual perturbations of thought and matter. In this light, the task of abstraction is to liberate the (virtual) subject. On the other hand, social life is dominated by “real” abstractions such as money, socially necessary labour time, commodity exchange and the like, whereas abstraction can also analyse and describe operations of thought and ideology which generalize too much, thus neglecting specificity. Simultaneously, “abstracting out” is the only way to discern patterns and tendencies, to get to the “big picture”. Such a tension is particularly notable in the relationship between theory and practice in artistic production, as well as in political activity.
As the artist has said, “the nihilism that abstraction produces is the norm of life and society.” The concern over this nihilism of abstraction perhaps comes from the paradox embedded within Ma’s works: the abstractions of value in capitalism; the dialectical relation between artworks as social form and as commodity. Is the value of an artwork doomed to be determined by dominant forms of market exchange and value-producing labour? The distinction between art and non-art objects lies in the differences in the practices and conditions of each creative process, whereby art objects differ from commodities in that the artistic process, from the perspective of value-producing labour-time, seems more like a perverse form of self-exploitation and speculative labour. However, as Adorno suggests, the uselessness of an artwork is the basis of its critique and its autonomy – and this autonomy does not arise out of distance from the commodity, but from the complete symbiosis of the artwork’s immanent form, structure and logic. This manifests the idea that the more the artwork is abstracted from the use-value, the more it constitutes a negation of the rule of value.