Kunsthalle Dusseldorf presents Yin Xiuzhen, an exhibition on view 15 December 2012–10 March 2013.
The Kunsthalle Düsseldorf in collaboration with the Groninger Museum is presenting the first major solo exhibition in Europe devoted to the work of one of China’s most important artists, Yin Xiuzhen (b. 1963, Beijing; lives and works in Beijing). The show consists of a comprehensive survey of her artistic oeuvre.
The exhibition begins with Yin’s early installations that are often presented in uninhabited, untouched landscapes and now exist in the shape of photographic documentations. The show focuses, however, on the expansive installations as well as the recent monumental, accessible, textile installations that represent a watershed in Yin’s oeuvre.
Yin’s works from the 1990s, for example Washing River (1995), are strongly motivated by politics when she broaches the theme of the consequences of industry and technology on nature and the people: A performance is documented in photographs in which Chinese citizens “wash” dirty water that has been frozen into a rectangular block of ice with sponges until the ice melts.
Yin has produced large-scale sculptural and installative works since the late 1990s from old clothing, shoes, furniture and simple construction material like cement and stone, often in public spaces. A distinctive turning point in Yin’s work is evident after 2000: secondhand clothing has become a rich source of ideas and subsequent pieces that often revolve around state-of-the-art technology and urban growth. By selecting airplanes, automobiles and highways as the motifs for her large sculptures, the artist calls attention to the seeming limitlessness of mobility and the fast-moving pace of today’s globalised world. With their richness in detail and the revelation of the individual parts that are attached to each other, Yin’s works simultaneously reference artistic handicrafts themselves that require skill, patience and above all time.
Expansive pieces such as Collective Subconscious (2007) and Engine (2008) exemplify this ambiguity in her installations: on the one hand it is the overstimulation and rapid rhythms of everyday big city life that affects the collective subconscious as well as the heart, the “motor” of the individual. But on the other hand these works in particular also invite the viewer to take time, to sit in the automobile and to listen to the music that accompanies the installation.
In doing so, the visitor becomes a central part of the installations to the extent that he is confronted with the artist’s personal recollections as well as with collective memory landscapes situated between the familiar, the local and the global. The suitcase series Portable Cities (2000–2012), for example, derives from Yin’s travels, during which she collected pieces of old clothing from the inhabitants of the respective city she was visiting with the intent of later patching them up into an urban landscape that takes the shape of a suitcase, oriented on the map of each town. In this way she broaches the theme of her own experiences in a globalised world where the idea of “home” has to be rethought.
Despite their poetic formal vocabulary, her pieces can also be read as critical commentaries scrutinising the desires and fears of the individual in a global world that is oriented on mobility and efficiency. One speaks in the most populated country in the world of high-speed urbanisation. Yin not least references China’s significant role as a dominant textile producer for the world market and hence the associated working conditions in the textile industry when she reduces technological megalomania and its mass production to absurdity by means of individual manual labour in enormous textile installations.
Yin Xiuzhen’s works have already attracted much attention at the 2007 Venice Biennale and at the project space of the Museum of Modern Art, New York, in 2010.
A comprehensive and profusely illustrated English-language catalogue with a German supplement was published on the occasion of the exhibition.
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