The Xijing Men

The Spencer Museum of Art at the University of Kansas and the H&R Block Artspace at the Kansas City Art Institute are pleased to present the inaugural North American exhibition by the internationally renowned Xijing Men: artists Tsuyoshi Ozawa (Japan), Chen Shaoxiong (China), and Gimhongsok (Korea). Members of the collaborative will arrive in Kansas City on January 22 for a 10-day residency to create and install a new work. The exhibition will be installed at the H&R Block Artspace, on view from February 1 through April 2, 2013.

The Xijing Men hail, conceptually, from the fictitious city of Xijing, an imagined political entity in East Asia. The term Xijing is composed of Chinese characters meaning “western capital” (the city’s name would be saikyō in Japanese and suhkyung in Korean). The word play has roots in the names of real cities: Beijing (“northern capital”), Nanjing (“southern capital”), and Tokyo, known in Chinese as Donjing (“eastern capital”). Since forming in 2006, the Xijing Men have staged scenarios drawing heavily on absurdity, satire, sarcasm, and humor. Tsuyoshi Ozawa (Japan) and Chen Shaoxiong (China) originally began communicating via a visual correspondence meant to bridge the linguistic and geographic divide between their two countries; this was at a low point in China-Japan relations characterized by anti-Japanese demonstrations in China. When the two were invited to participate in Mori Art Museum’s All About Laughter: Humor in Contemporary Art, they displayed their work alongside that of Gimhongsok (Korea). Noticing a resonance between their work and Gimhongsok’s, they asked him to join them in forming a collaboration spanning three Asian states.

The collaboration, as the artists have envisioned it, will consist of five chapters, four of which have been completed: (1) Do You Know Xijing? (2) This is Xijing (3) Welcome to Xijing (4) I Love Xijing. The fifth chapter, Goodbye Xijing, will eventually conclude their project. These chapters establish the history, mythology and cultural identity of Xijing. At the same time, by attributing these qualities to a non-existent political entity, the Xijing Men poke holes in these very concepts, deflating their power. Meanwhile, mock cultural events have provided opportunities for antic-driven commentary, always referencing specific geopolitical spectacles. Notably, an Olympics spectacle hosted by the fictitious city of Xijing in 2008 (competitions included sleep marathons and cigarette-smoking relays) restored a sense of levity and play— markedly absent from the actual Olympics, which took place in Beijing at the same time—to the sports arena.

The Xijing Men have exhibited their work at museums and international exhibitions throughout Asia and Europe, including: Gwangju Biennale 2012, Bevilacqua La Masa Foundation in Venice 2011, the 1st Aichi Triennial 2010, Media City Seoul 2010, the 10th Lyon Biennale 2009, the 4th Fukuoka Asian Art Triennale 2009, Tate Liverpool 2009, 3rd Nanjing Triennial 2008, and Platform Seoul 2008.

The Kansas City exhibition, to be installed at the H&R Block Artspace, will include a survey of past work by the Xijing Men, including video, drawings and objects culled from four of the five chapters the artists envisioned for the duration of their collaboration. In conjunction with the exhibition, the artists will deliver a public presentation as part of the KCAI Current Perspectives lecture series on Thursday, January 31 at 7 pm. An accompanying performance taking the guise of a conference is tentatively planned onsite at the Spencer Museum of Art in Lawrence. A full-color exhibition catalogue featuring essays and interviews detailing new and past work will also be published as part of the exhibition.

Ozawa Tsuyoshi was born in Tokyo, Japan, in 1965. After graduating from Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music in 1989, he completed his postgraduate studies in mural painting at the same university in 1991. Based on dialogue, interaction, and communication rather than isolated studio practice, Ozawa’s art draws on the dynamics of everyday life and human interactions. Large-scale projects include the Museum of Soy Sauce Art (1999–2000), a humorous take on Japanese art history, and numerous international exhibitions such as the solo show Answer With Yes and No! at the Mori Art Museum (2004), the Asia Pacific Triennial in Brisbane, Australia (2006), and Another Landscape at the Mori Art Museum (2008).

Chen Shaoxiong was born in Shantou, Guangdong province, China, in 1965. He graduated from the Print Department at the Guangzhou Fine Art Academy in 1984. In 1990, together with Lin Yilin and Liang Juhui, he formed the “urban guerrilla” collective known as Big Tail Elephant. A provocateur of the Chinese art world, Chen employs video and installation to investigate the shifting societal landscape of contemporary China. His international exhibitions include the Venice Biennale (2003), Between Past and Future: New Photography and Video from China (2004), the Hong Kong and Shenzhen Bi-city Biennale (2008), and Orient Without Borders at the Espace Louis Vuitton, Paris (2008). Most recently, he completed a residency and exhibition at the Spencer Museum of Art in March 2012.

Gimhongsok was born in 1964 in Seoul, Korea, where he teaches at Sangmyung University. He received his BFA in 1987 from Seoul National University and went on to study at Hochschule für Bildende Künste, Braunschweig (Germany) and at Kunstakademie Düsseldorf in 1996. Using primarily installation, Gimhongsok’s art blurs perceptions of belief and subjectivity. He has exhibited internationally at the 10th Istanbul Biennial (2007), 6th Gwangju Biennale (2006), and the Korean Pavilion of the Venice Biennale (2005), with his most recent group exhibition being Your Bright Future: 12 Contemporary Artists from Korea, organized by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the Houston Museum of Fine Arts (2009).

This exhibition is generously funded by the Richard J. Stern Foundation for the Arts, Kansas City, Missouri, the William T. Kemper Foundation, Kansas City, Missouri, the Japan Foundation, New York, New York, and the Missouri Arts Council, a state agency.

The Xijing Men exhibition opens on Friday, February 1 with a reception at the H&R Block Artspace from 6-8 PM. Artists Tsuyoshi Ozawa (Japan), Chen Shaoxiong (China), and Gimhongsok (Korea) will deliver a public lecture on Thursday, January 31 at 7 PM in Epperson Auditorium, Vanderslice Hall on the Kansas City Art Institute campus.

Courtesy of The Spencer Museum of Art at the University of Kansas and the H&R Block Artspace at the Kansas City Art Institute, for further information please visit www.spencerart.ku.edu.

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