portable domains 02.12.2015 - 18.12.2015 : firstdraft gallery

Produced by curatorial collective Astute Art Investments International (AAII) Portable Domains presents new and recent work by Kieron Broadhurst (Perth), Michelle Proksell 媚潇 & Gabriele de Seta (Beijing/Netize.net 网友网/WeChat: mutedrainbow & Hong Kong), Song Xi 宋兮 & Yang Xinjia 杨欣嘉 (Beijing), Giselle Stanborough (Sydney/Instagram: gisellestanborough) and Ying Miao苗颖 (Beijing/ thedeadpixelofmyeye.com).

Portable Domains traces movements in self-styled domains, from bricks and mortar real estate to social media accounts and personal websites, investigating the seductions, compulsions and transportability of these spaces in a hyper-competitive world. The exhibition develops ideas around artists’ voices competing to be heard, both on and offline—considering strategies for building social and cultural capital with limited resources. More than institutional critique or an exercise in self-reflexivity, these experiments and experiences signal the contemporary state of self-promotion, self-curating and self-branding that have become prerequisites for individuals to stake a claim in our societies and the information economy. Portable Domains is an exhibition outcome of AAII, an active network of artists and curators working across Sydney, Hong Kong and Beijing. Using digital platforms such as WeChat – a popular messaging app in China – AAII is an immediate and open response to the practical and structural barriers, such as language and censorship, that can limit artists’ ability to work cross-culturally.

Biography

Kieron Broadhurst

Kieron Broadhurst is an artist based in Perth. Through a diverse range of media his work explores the possibilities of narrative and world building within contemporary art practice. Kieron is currently undertaking a PhD at Curtin University and is a key representative of the Martin Kippenberger Appreciation Society.

Michelle Proksell 媚潇 & Gabriele de Seta

Michelle Lee Proksell 媚潇 (b. Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, 1985) is an independent researcher, curator, artist, musician, photographer and writer currently based in Beijing, China. The majority of her research and curatorial practice is published under an archive she started, documenting and interviewing emerging digital and post-internet artists in China at www.netize.net. As an artist, she works with video, sound, performance and her ongoing Chinternet Archive – a collection of vernacular digital artifacts from the Chinese Web. She is most interested in the physicality of the Internet and its relationship to human behavior, emotions and social interactions. Gabriele de Seta is a media anthropologist studying digital folklore and media practices of vernacular creativity in contemporary China. He collects, curates and narrates the genres of user-generated content, local humor and platform-specific aesthetics circulating across Chinese postdigital media ecologies. He also meddles with experimental music and Internet art.

Giselle Stanborough

Giselle Stanborough is an emerging intermedia artist whose practice often addresses online user generated media and the way in which such technologies encourage us to identify and perform notions of self. She graduated from COFA in 2010 with the University Medal and since then has exhibited in galleries around NSW and in Melbourne. Her work has been shown online in The Washington Post’s “Pictures of The Day” and in Hennessy Youngman’s “Art Thoughtz”.

Song Xi 宋兮 & Yang Xinjia 杨欣嘉

Born in 1983 in Qiqihaer, Heilongjiang, China, Song Xi 宋兮is a Beijing-based artist from the Daur ethnic minority group, who works across performance, video and installation. In 2006 he graduated from Art and Design College, Dalian University of Light Industry. His solo exhibitions include Continuous Movement, 203 Gallery, Shanghai in 2015 and Songxi·Allegory, Piltover gallery, Dusseldorf, Germany in 2014. His work has been exhibited in numerous group exhibitions in China, Australia and the UK. Yang Xinjia 杨欣嘉was born in Puning Guangdong Province in 1983. He graduated from Jingdezhen Ceramic Institute in 2006 and now lives and works in Beijing. His work has been included in numerous group exhibitions in China, Hong Kong and Taiwan and his debut solo exhibition was held at Fang Space Gallery, Beijing in 2013.

Ying Miao 苗颖

Ying Miao is an internet artist who currently resides on The Internet (thedeadpixelofmyeye.com), the Chinese Internet (the Great Fire Wall) and her smartphone. She received her BFA from the China Academy of Fine Art’s New Media Arts department, and her MFA from the School of Art and Design at SUNY Alfred University, with a focus in Electronic Integrated Arts. She has shown her works in mainland China, Taiwan, Europe, the United States, on the internet and the virtual world of Second Life. Her most recent solo exhibition is in the Chinese pavilion at the 2015 Venice Biennale.

Image Credit: Michelle Proksell 媚潇 & Gabriele de Seta, untitled [Meitu Xiuxiu], 2015, found digital image edited using Meitu Pic app. Courtesy the artists.

 


Portable Domains

Produced by Astute Art Investments International (AAII)

Kieron Broadhurst (Perth), Michelle Proksell 媚潇 & Gabriele de Seta (Beijing/Netize.net 网友网/WeChat: mutedrainbow & Hong Kong), Song Xi 宋兮 & Yang Xinjia 杨欣嘉 (Beijing), Giselle Stanborough (Sydney/Instagram: gisellestanborough) and Ying Miao 苗颖 (Beijing/thedeadpixelofmyeye.com)

 

Astute Art Investments International (AAII) is an active network of artists and curators working across Sydney, Hong Kong and Beijing. Using digital platforms such as WeChat – a popular messaging app in China – AAII is an immediate and open response to the practical and structural barriers, such as language and censorship, that can limit artists’ ability to work cross-culturally. Portable Domains is AAII’s third exhibition outcome and traces the seductions, compulsions and transportability of self-styled domains, from bricks and mortar real estate and isolated cities, to smart phones and social media accounts.

 

List of Works + Artist Statements

(clockwise from left)

 

Michelle Proksell 媚潇

The Chinternet Archive: Daily WeChat Moments

今天 Chinternet, 2015-ongoing

WeChat account

Courtesy the artist and I: project space, Beijing

 

The Chinese internet exists as a kind of parallel universe to the rest of the World Wide Web. What this means is that information and usage is specifically localised, emerging from the needs of its users, in this case culturally specific Chinese characteristics. At this point in China’s digital history, much of the “Chinternet” (as it is sometimes humorously called), is experienced through hand held mobile devices. The sharing of content is accessed often through popular social Chinese apps like Weibo, QQ and WeChat (or in Chinese, Wēixìn 微信). Within the popular app WeChat, there is a function called “People Nearby” that allows users to access the phone’s location services to connect to strangers who have also activated the same feature within a 1000m radius. If a user decides to keep their account open and public for strangers to explore, then people can see up to ten posts they have recently made. It is through this feature that I have been collecting 20,000+ images, .gif animations, graphics, and videos from the Chinese internet. I began collecting this content in mainland China in April 2014, at first only curious about researching the aesthetics of Chinese-specific selfies. As the collection grew, so did the kind of content I collected, which now gives an expansive perspective on Chinese contemporary digital culture through the lens of the people who post things in my nearby vicinity. The archive itself reflects on things such as nationality, identity, politics, aesthetics, memes, trends, fashion, economy, retail, hook up culture, beauty and the varying demographics of Chinese people. I have collected images in a number of urban Chinese cities, including Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen, Xi’an, Yangshuo, Guilin and Hong Kong. Each city reveals its own digital history and localised online personalities and has informed me that the virtual world and real life are not two separate entities in Chinese culture, but instead are an extension of each other.

 

Within my own WeChat account, I am able to post daily images from the archive in grids of up to nine images at a time, which I have been doing now as a continuous performative upload since February 2015.  Each small sampling from the archive posted daily in my WeChat moments reveals the diversity of Chinese people as they choose to represent themselves online. This archive is not just about collecting content but also about curating and sharing it on the same platform it was collected from. My daily postings from the archive are actually an ongoing performance piece, wherein the closed network of people who are following it are a part of the audience, which also expands as I add more contacts to my network. As the archive grows, so do the followers, and when you start to observe this content as a whole in succession everyday, you begin to see a reflection of what is going on during a very uncertain and fast changing period in China’s history.

 

Michelle Proksell 媚潇 & Gabriele de Seta

The Chinternet Archive: Daily WeChat Moments:自拍 Zipai, 2015

digital prints

Courtesy the artists

 

Zipai, literally ‘shooting oneself’ (as in shooting photos or videos) is how selfies are called in Mandarin Chinese. Zipai functions as both a verb and a noun, plural and singular, and can be expanded into locutions such as zipaizheng (‘selfie disorder’), zipaiji (‘selfie tool’, a common name for any imaging device with a front-camera or a reversible screen), or zipai shenqi (‘selfie magical object’, a quirky name for the selfie stick). Zipai doesn’t have the cute overtone of youth phenomenon typical of the English language suffix –ie, so common in hip terms like hippie, fixie, foodie, selfie or tinnie. The character zi simply means ‘self’, while the character pai, as suggested by the ‘hand’ radical on its left side, indicates a variety of actions like ‘paddling’, ‘beating’, and ‘sending’. Taking selfies in China is a quite pragmatic action described by a general term applicable to any imaging device – after all, one could take self-portraits even when the most popular device was a cheap automatic film camera. At the same time, it would be impossible to understand the popularity of zipai in contemporary China without a materialist account of consumer optics and social software. It is widely documented how in the past decade the introduction of low-resolution cameras on mobile phones represented for large sectors of the Chinese population the first contact with vernacular photography. More recently, the craze around increasingly cheap and powerful shanzhai smartphones has brought the pleasures of megapixel-quality imaging to large masses of users ready to snap, store, zoom in and leaf through hundreds of photos of their daily lives. The appearance of front cameras on many mobile devices, originally implemented for the purpose of video-calls, has only made a previously blind-guessed exercise into a work of precision and self-fashioning. And in China, the tech factory of the world, front optical sensors haven’t been the last step: reversible screens, rotating cameras, selfie sticks are all technological extensions aimed at a market of affordances defined by zipai – the practice of taking a picture of oneself.

 

Technology isn’t all that there is to zipai. An apparently individual and self-centered activity can easily become the testing ground for new forms of mediated sociality: taking selfies with friends fills the boredom of waiting or moving through urban spaces; snapping group self-portraits becomes a moment of experimentation with the theatrics of cuteness; collective zipai transform the mobile device into a portable photo booth specialized in self-portraiture. Social apps provide the output ports of the zipai factory: public distribution, shared commenting and social exchange. Just like Instagram and Snapchat support the whirling dissemination of millions of selfies in Euro-American networks, apps like WeChat, Meitu Xiuxiu, Weipai, and a slew of other social contact platforms and image editing software provide the channels, the formats and the filters shaping the circulation of zipai across Chinese media ecologies.

 

Song Xi 宋兮 & Yang Xinjia 杨欣嘉

Apartment of Dreams Come True, 2014

activity documentation, butterfly stickers

Courtesy the artists

 

Apartment of Dreams Come True, is close to transport, nice environment, cozy layout, quiet and comfortable, clean and tidy, also economical. The apartment equipped with bed, TV, air conditioner, free WIFI and 9hrs hot water supply. The Apartment of Dreams Come True is your best choice for tourism, visiting relatives, business trip, dating, takes part in entrance exam of postgraduate schools, job seeking, work creation etc. It provides a resting harbor for your tired body, and a blue sky to fly your dream.”

Apartment of Dreams Come True is not an experimental art project, it is a short-term residency program launched in October 2014. Apartment of Dreams Come True turned a temporary leased room among a high-density rental compound in Beijing, into a residency space, where artists resided in turns, each for 7 days of living, work creation, display and communication. The project lasted three months. Beijing’s central location, concentration of resources and unequal information have created a phenomenon of high-density outsider populations, leading to issues around census registration management, industrial structures, healthcare, education and security etc. High-density housing is at the intersection of all these issues. As a temporary and low cost residential space, high-density housing is a temporary solution to the outsiders’ living problems, and to the current period of social transformation. But in China’s complex reality, problems arise, housing constantly faces demolition, tenants are driven away. This holds great security and other risks, which constitute a field with both possibilities and problems. We chose such place to breath, think and take action…

 

Giselle Stanborough

The Ghost of Steve Jobs II, 2015

headphones, iPod Shuffle, apple, MP3 stereo sound file. Duration: 4 minutes 44 seconds

The Ghost of Steve Jobs I, 2015

batteries, Apple Education Sales Cap, vinyl, electronic novelty prop

Courtesy the artist

 

Smart is an inapposite adjective to describe the appearance of sentience manifest in our networked devices. Is intelligence really the right word for what we are referring to when we speak of the mysterious data exchange that characterises artificial and ambient technologies? I don’t think our relationship to our smart devices is cerebral. Our implicit faith in their omniscience is not based on a knowledge of their workings. We trust our technologies as mystic oracles and talismans, emitting invisible energy waves of data into the aether. Whilst the language describing the Internet of Things is strongly influenced by post-enlightenment rhetoric of the mind, our collective imagination draws on an older tradition, that of enchantments and magic, to daily make sense of the objects we believe in. In these works I am interested in moving away from the "computers are smart versus computers are stupid" dialectic to propose that computers are possessed. It was Steve Jobs who established the consumer electronics market we know today by removing the need to code and thus negating generalised knowledge about how the computer works to privilege the experience of it working. Now that Jobs has passed, these works propose that it is his very soul that is abstracted electronically in these devices. The disembodied spirit of Steve Jobs lives in your MacBook and watches over you while you watch porn.

 

Kieron Broadhurst

Ultra Rare Shiny, 2015

wall panels: acrylic, enamel and marker on board;

floor: perspex, spray paint, found objects and marker

sound: found audio recording, 5 minutes, 24 seconds, looped

Courtesy the artist

Ultra Rare Shiny is an abstracted sculptural illustration which utilises a mixture of props and art objects to explore the undocumented phenomena of sailing stones in and around Lake Disappointment in outback Western Australia. Despite the well-recorded history of the phenomena in Death Valley, California, little is known about the sailing stones of Lake Disappointment. What little research has been done these particular rocks seems to indicate that their behaviour is causally related to another, also relatively undocumented event – a large explosion and/or impact which occurred in outback Western Australia immediately before the outbreak of the Second World War. This event is now known to have altered the physical properties of the landscape and the behaviour of its inhabitants. Research into the event is currently being undertaken by the artist and his collaborators Oliver Hull and Giles Bunch. Their discoveries (to date) include mirages, the disappearance of an inland sea, the fusion of various objects in the landscape, inexplicable termite behaviour and the possibility of a conspiracy. (Kieron Broadhurst)

 

Ying Miao 苗颖

Is it me you are looking for?, 2014

HD single channel video. Duration: 1 minute 14 seconds

Courtesy the artist

Is it me you are looking for? is made from a series gifs made from snapshots of censored websites (such as google.com, Facebook.com, youtube.com, twitter.com, etc.) and local Chinese internet poems (such as ”Holding a kitchen knife cut internet cable, a road with lightning sparks”), translated by Chinese-English, and Taobao (www.taobao.com) style 3D animated gif wording, along with 8 bit internet landscapes. The background music is Hello by Lionel Richie. In the music video, it shows a love story between a blind girl and Lionel. In the end she made a sculpture of him from her observation, quite like the romantic relationship between me and the Chinese internet.

 

Artist Biographies

Kieron Broadhurst is an artist based in Perth, WA. Through a diverse range of media his work explores the speculative possibilities of fictional narratives and world building within contemporary art practice. Kieron is currently undertaking a PhD at Curtin University and is a key representative of the Martin Kippenberger Appreciation Society.  

Michelle Proksell (b. Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, 1985) is an independent researcher, curator, artist, musician, photographer and writer currently based in Beijing, China. The majority of her research and curatorial practice is published under an archive she started, documenting and interviewing emerging digital and post-internet artists in China at www.netize.net. As an artist, she works with video, sound, performance and her ongoing Chinternet Archive – a collection of vernacular digital artifacts from the Chinese Web. She is most interested in the physicality of the Internet and its relationship to human behavior, emotions and social interactions. Gabriele de Seta is a media anthropologist studying digital folklore and media practices of vernacular creativity in contemporary China. He collects, curates and narrates the genres of user-generated content, local humor and platform-specific aesthetics circulating across Chinese postdigital media ecologies. He also meddles with experimental music and Internet art.

Giselle Stanborough is an emerging intermedia artist whose practice often addresses online user generated media and the way in which such technologies encourage us to identify and perform notions of self. She graduated from COFA in 2010 with the University Medal and since then has exhibited in galleries around NSW and in Melbourne. Her work has been shown online in The Washington Post’s “Pictures of The Day” and in Hennessy Youngman’s “Art Thoughtz”.

Born in 1983 in Qiqihaer, Heilongjiang, China, Song Xi 宋兮is a Beijing-based artist from the Daur ethnic minority group, who works across performance, video and installation. In 2006 he graduated from Art and Design College, Dalian University of Light Industry. His solo exhibitions include Continuous Movement, 203 Gallery, Shanghai in 2015 and Songxi·Allegory, Piltover gallery, Dusseldorf, Germany in 2014. His work has been exhibited in numerous group exhibitions in China, Australia and the UK. Yang Xinjia 欣嘉was born in Puning Guangdong Province in 1983. He graduated from Jingdezhen Ceramic Institute in 2006 and now lives and works in Beijing. His work has been included in numerous group exhibitions in China, Hong Kong and Taiwan and his debut solo exhibition was held at Fang Space Gallery, Beijing in 2013.

Ying Miao 苗颖 is an internet artist who currently resides on The Internet (thedeadpixelofmyeye.com), the Chinese Internet (the Great Fire Wall) and her smartphone. She received her BFA from the China Academy of Fine Art’s New Media Arts department, and her MFA from the School of Art and Design at SUNY Alfred University, with a focus in Electronic Integrated Arts. She has shown her works in mainland China, Taiwan, Europe, the United States, on the internet and the virtual world of Second Life. Her most recent solo exhibition is in the Chinese pavilion at the 2015 Venice Biennale.

www.astuteartinvestments.com