Date:20.4.2016-19.6.2016
Venue:Lower Gallery, Institute of Contemporary Arts, The Mall, London, SW1Y 5AH
Opening Hours:Tuesday – Sunday, 11am–6pm, until 9pm on Thursdays
Artists: Guan Xiao
Curators: Katharine Stout, Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA), K11 Art Foundation

The K11 Art Foundation (KAF) is pleased to collaborate with the Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA, London), Flattened Metal, the first solo institutional exhibition of emerging Chinese artist Guan Xiao in the UK.

Working mainly in sculpture and video, Chinese artist Guan Xiao (b.1983) explores how ways of seeing are now influenced by digital image and information circulation as an increasingly dominant source of knowledge exchange. In various works and installations, she endeavours to expand the aesthetic and cognitive possibilities for how meanings and identities are assigned and understood, without seeking to compartmentalize or fix definitions.

Guan Xiao’s work is occupied with our incomprehension of the past, and the way in which the unknown gives rise to intriguing discussion in the present. She juxtaposes references from the past and present (or future), weaving visual and audio material (including video clips found on the internet), digital rendering techniques and found objects (ranging from alloy wheels and engines to various ancient or tribal artefacts) to create distinct and evocative installations that integrate so-called primitive and high tech elements. In this way, she offers fresh perspectives on what we perceive as the ‘new’ and the ‘old’.

Guan Xiao’s first solo exhibition in London includes a new installation comprising five large printed screens, in front of which will be placed sculptures made up of various materials, including speakers that emit new audio works. As with previous works such as Documentary: Geocentric Puncture (2012) and Documentary: From National Geographic to BBC (2015), Guan Xiao optically merges the colour spectrum for the printed background screens (of the kind usually found in photographic studios) with the tonal range of the customized objects placed in front. The printed repetitive patterns are often taken from natural camouflaging phenomena such as animal or snake skins that are also reproduced artificially for clothing or accessories. Just as Guan Xiao is interested in finding formal equivalences rather than difference between the 2nd and 3rd dimensions in her object works, she also sets out to explore the interdependent connections and flow between different ways of understanding the world – and our place within it. For the first time, Guan Xiao includes text excepts from other writers on the printed screens, including quotes from the British anthropologist and systems theorist Gregory Bateson (1904–80) whose theoretical work embraced psychology, behavioural biology, evolution, systems theory, and cybernetics, as he worked toward a theoretical synthesis he referred to as “an ecology of mind”. For example, in his book Mind and Nature he asked, “What pattern connects the crab to the lobster and the orchid to the primrose and all the four of them to me? And me to you?”

This exhibition also includes a recent video triptych, Action (2014), which suggests open and fluid connections between sound, image and text as video clips sourced from a range of online sources including home movies, advertising and promotional videos are rhythmically juxtaposed across the three screens. Guan Xiao comments on the work, “For me, rhythm means all the intersections of sense. It’s a way I understand the associations between things. It helps me to try and transfer action, see listen, think about interactions and freely build a link between them.”

For Guan Xiao the internet is like a “massive materials bank”, and she uses it as a tool (rather than as a subject) for her work; “On the Internet, the possibilities for ‘seeing’ new things have a much broader range than ever before and the relationship between seeing and hearing becomes closer than ever. Our various sensory experiences begin to compress into one layer… the other thing I think is very interesting about the Internet is that it’s very much like our raw awareness. The fact that our awareness has never been fixed since it is always encountering something else. That’s very much like the experience of browsing online.” (Mousse interview with Nav Haq, Issue No. 45, 2014).

The exhibition is the second collaboration between the KAF and the ICA in promoting talents in Chinese contemporary art on a global stage. It is a major milestone that affirms KAF’s longstanding mission in developing emerging Chinese artists’ career through creating an exchange platform with leading cultural institutions from abroad. The exhibition will serve as a channel for Guan Xiao to further explore and present her multi-dimensional artistic practice to overseas curators and international audience.

“The K11 Art Foundation is thrilled to embark on our second collaboration with the ICA, London in reinforcing our commitment to incubate young artists from Greater China.” stated Adrian Cheng, Founder and Honorary Chairman of KAF, “Guan Xiao is an exceptional artist whose practice has already began to garner the attention of various curators and institutions within China. Through this solo exhibition, we are confident that she will contribute a unique voice to the international art community.”

Flattened Metal receives additional support from the Guan Xiao Exhibition Supporters Group including Joyce Liu, Antenna Space, Shanghai, Bruno Wang, Pure Land Foundation and Kraupa-Tuskany Zeidler, Berlin.