Second Guangzhou Triennial: Guangdong Museum of Art
Spalding, David, Artforum International
While the First Guangzhou Triennial, in 2002, provided viewers with a sweeping overview of creative output by the so-called first generation of China's avant-garde artists, the second is an attempt to reconfigure the relationship between the triennial and its context. Integral to the exhibition is the museum's location in the Pearl River Delta, or PRD, a cluster of southern Chinese cities, including Shenzhen and Guangzhou, that have experienced a wild growth spurt since the '70s and whose congested urban sprawl represents both opportunity and decadence. To facilitate exchanges among artists, architects, and other cultural workers from both inside and outside the PRD, cocurators Hou Hanru, Hans-Ulrich Obrist, and Guo Xiaoyan formulated the triennial as a series of "D-Labs," workshops dedicated to investigating a range of topics pertinent to the Delta that would germinate the exhibition's content. Since November 2004, five D-Labs and several related public presentations have been held in Beijing, Guangzhou, and Hong Kong, mixing an epic cast of art-world players and brand name architects--from Rirkrit Tiravanija and Pierre Huyghe to Rem Koolhaas--with dozens of artists from throughout China. The exhibition itself was meant to represent another of these exchanges, rather than a terminus.
Though the triennial's unwieldy full title, "Beyond: An Extraordinary Space of Experimentation for Modernization," suggests both a spatial and temporal extension into uncharted territory, visitors first had to contend with the immediate experience of the artworks within and surrounding the museum, which was sometimes less than satisfying. One mistake was to allow Hong Kong artists/architects Laurent Gutierrez and Valerie Portefaix, working under the name Map-Office, to cover parts of the museum floor with an irregular patchwork of slightly raised wooden platforms that visitors were forced to stumble over as they moved through the show. This may have increased viewers' awareness of their own navigation strategies within the museum but only by preventing them from looking anywhere but at their own feet. …