TJINCHINA ProjectSpace

PRESS / PRENSA

TONY COZANO 

Bitter, yet cool
Global Times | 2012-8-20 20:10:03 
By Vera Penêda



One of the first symbols greeting visitors to at the entrance of the TJ in China Project Room, Caochangdi's latest gallery, is a "communist dollar" spray painted on the ground by Chinese artist Dai Hua. 

Mirrored, symmetrical insignias of communism's hammer and sickle side by side make them resemble a dollar sign, offering a thought-provoking preview for visitors of Dai's eccentric solo exhibition that opened on Saturday. 

Animated tanks, the Chinese zodiac and pixilated images detailing the country's past century converge in Dai's artworks. Simple yet ironic, the exhibition entitled "It's cool to be an artist (in China)" includes 10 pieces dripping with mythical, historical and pop cultural influences that illustrate the bittersweet life of an artist in China. Little cubes with legs run in front of animated excavators in Dai's animated video The End. "If you want to build something new, you first need to nip it in the bud," said Dai, 36, who mixed Beethoven's "Ode to Joy" with Chinese requiem song "Funeral Music" for the video's soundtrack.  

"My art is just Ctrl+C, Ctrl+V - cut and paste," joked Dai, a self-confessed history buff who studied computing and used to design CD covers, T-shirts and websites. 

He uses computer-generated art to creatively and sarcastically poke fun at tradition and authorities. Dai used a Chinese pun to express the irony of being an artist free to express feelings and convey messages, yet unable to make enough money or change reality. 

"Kubi literally means 'bitter force,' but depending on the tone in pronunciation it can mean 'cool' or 'miserable,'" Dai said through a grin, referring to the fourth and third tones respectively.

Many visitors have been drawn to Map of China (1911-2010), which bears a playful similarity to the children's book Where's Waldo? The huge image is crowded with a witty parade of symbols and imagery reflecting China's political and social changes. 

Population growth, the evolution of the significance of the term tongzhi (Chinese slang for "homosexual"), and China's sometimes rocky relations with its neighbors are all featured.

"It's a very ironic revision of China's history over the last century, with harsh criticism directed toward the current government and society," said Esteban Andueza, an independent curator at the opening of the event. "I see some of the criticism that was done in the 1990s. Only Dai uses other formats and tools like the computer.

"Dai contradicts the common idea that art needs to be complex in order for it to be striking," noted Andueza.

The techniques Dai uses to incorporate creative freedom and important political aspects particularly appealed to Mexican artists Mely Barragán and Daniel Ruanova, co-founders of the gallery. 

"Dai is representative of a generation of Chinese artists who switched from analog to digital, and whose work is much more conscientious and critical of China," said Ruanova. 

 

When: Until September 8

Where: TJ in China Project Room, 300 Caochangdi Village, Chaoyang district 

Admission: Free

Contact: 182-1082-4074 or visit: tjinchina.dinstudio.com


http://www.globaltimes.cn/content/728011.shtml

DAI HUA says: 

...I just noticed recently that I have always been worrying too much, like being afraid the sky would fall someday, (add minimum of 2 more examples of worrying). In retrospect, I guess I am one of those conceited guys who always think they know more than the next man. But think about that, what a cool thing to be a prophet saving the whole world from a crisis! Can I work on my problem and be a better person? Who knows? Only time will tell. Who can beat time anyway?... 

...I never believe what artists say about their work...

IT'S COOL TO BE AN ARTIST ( IN CHINA)

DAI HUA / 代化

SOLO SHOW / 个展 CURATED BY / 策展 : TJINCHINA

August 18 - September 8, 2012


“As China gradually merges with the rest of the world, it will become more difficult to tell which works are by Chinese artists.”

Born 1976, Beijing

Dai Hua works as a designer of CD covers and websites, and uses computers for creative fun as well. “My art is just Ctrl-C, Ctrl-V—copy and paste,” he says. Painstakingly cloning and combining the tiny squares known as picture elements, or pixels, he builds fantastically crowded panoramas like I Love Beijing’s Tiananmen (2006), a cavalcade of Chinese history;Birth and Destruction (2008), a witty take on capitalism and its follies; and Wowzah! (2008), a celebration of rock and roll—all filled with figures from myth, history and pop culture. His animation Monkeys and Peaches (2009) is based on a story the artist read online, about an experiment in which monkeys who were punished for touching bananas taught new arrivals not to touch the fruit. Dai Hua says he animated this story—with one change. In the classical Chinese tale Journey to the West, the character Monkey steals peaches, and Dai Hua says, “I thought peaches could better represent what people desire than bananas.”

Escape to Beijing: Tijuana artists explore ties with China

A curious creative partnership is born in the notorious border town

Like much of life along Mexico’s northern edge, border art is often defined by its relationship to the U.S.

“I have an inherent need to create bridges, to reach,” said Patricia Ruiz Bayon, a prominent performance artist in Matamoros, Mexico, just across the border from Brownsville, Texas. “Probably because I have always been at the edge of division.”

But Tijuana artists and partners Mely Barragán and Daniel Ruanova, who grew up on the border, got tired of always looking north.

Although Barragán is a legal resident of the U.S. and Ruanova has dual citizenship, they’ve never been able to build a sustainable relationship with the arts community in the U.S.

Mely Barragán and Daniel Ruanova
Barragán and Ruanova opened an art gallery in the Caochangdi district of Beijing in 2012. Mely Barragán / TJ in China

“It’s always on their terms,” Barragán said of the contacts and visits over the years.

So four years ago they decided to explore in a different direction and immigrated to China. It was a move that has sparked a seemingly unlikely cross-cultural artistic link.

The goal, Ruanova said, was to build new ties so Tijuana artists can “expand the idea of border and create different exit-entry points to TJ instead of being monogamous to the USA.” (“TJ” is how many Tijuana natives refer to their hometown.)

But there was another reason. “It was the furthest and most civilized place we could find that was really, really far away from Mexico and from what we were trying to not think about,” said Ruanova.

Painting by Daniel Ruanova
“!!SPIC” (acrylic on canvas, 2014), a recent painting by Ruanova. Daniel Ruanova

Like most people living through the explosion of drug cartel violence in Tijuana in the late 2000s, Ruanova and Barragán grew paranoid. You could see it in their art. Ruanova’s work at the time — “The F--- Off Project” — included bright, colorful paintings shielded by steely gates and teeth or painted over with the project’s titular epithet in bright red letters.

He also built large-scale metal sculptures with sharp edges that defended the spaces where they were installed. “Protect my space, protect my people, protect my stuff, protect my consensus,” he said back in 2009. “And when you start doing that, you realize when you protect yourself, you’re just giving more energy to this cycle.”

Barragán, meanwhile, constructed soft sculptures of baguette-style leather handbags shaped like chef’s knives.

In 2008 there were 844 homicides in Tijuana. San Diego, which sits just across the border and is comparable in size, had 55 murders that year. The frequent kidnappings and gruesome murders took a toll on Barragán and Ruanova. They were afraid to go out. They kept a gun in their home.

Just two years earlier, the New York Times had hailed Tijuana as the center of a “vibrant new art movement” during the landmark “Strange New World: Art and Design from Tijuana” exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego. That exhibition hosted 130 works from 41 artists, including Ruanova and Barragán. It was the pinnacle of U.S. interest in art from the Mexican side of the border.

By 2008, Tijuana artists — like much of the rest of the city’s residents — were bunkered in their homes, securing themselves behind locked doors.

“It was depressing,” Barragán said. “It was contaminating us as artists.”

Mely Barragan
Young people gather at TJ in China’s opening show in Caochangdi in 2012. TJ in China

When they moved to China, Barragán and Ruanova found very little cultural representation of Mexico. To initiate a cultural exchange between the two nations, they opened the TJ in China project room in Caochangdi, an industrial arts district described as the Williamsburg of Beijing (referring to the Brooklyn neighborhood with a thriving art scene) and stomping grounds of China’s internationally famed artist Ai Wei Wei.

TJ in China showcased contemporary artists from Mexico’s northern border region — like Jaime Ruiz OtisPablo Castañeda and Adriana Trujillo — alongside Beijing artists such as Zhu YuDai Hua and Shinpei Takeda.

But it was not easy to be a commercial hit. Despite packed events, TJ in China never sold a single piece. Not that Barragán and Ruanova found that off-putting. “Maybe some people will see [that] as a negative, but growing up as an artist in TJ — there’s no market,” said Ruanova. “That’s not the reality of why you do art [in Tijuana].” (The pair did, however, continue to sell several of their own pieces outside of the gallery.)

Mely Barragán portrait by Stefan Falke
Photographer Stefan Falke has been shooting portraits of artists all along the U.S.-Mexico border as part of his La Frontera project. Here, Barragán wears one of her pieces, “The Power to Kill / The Kitchen Knife,” at Mercado Hidalgo in Tijuana. Stefan Falke / laif / Redux

Arturo Rodriguez, who runs the upscale Caja Gallery on a winding residential street about two miles from the U.S.-Mexico border, confirms this. Even with pieces by respected border artists like Irma Sofia Poeter and Pablo Llana in his collection, Rodriguez has a tough time attracting buyers.

“It’s difficult because there’s a lot of money here but the people usually …” his voice trailed off as he searched for a diplomatic way to explain the city’s lack of local art buyers. As for San Diego collectors, Tijuana’s security reputation keeps them away.

“There’s no art market,” affirmed Stefan Falke, a German photographer who has spent much of the last six years shooting portraits of artists all along the U.S.-Mexico border, including Barragán and Ruanova. (The photos will be exhibited at New York’s Photoville exhibit in September.)

But for Falke, what’s bad for the artists’ pockets is good for their process.

“Art there is made for the art,” he said.

TJ in China in Tijuana
Barragán and Ruanova opened TJ in China on Avenida Revolución in downtown Tijuana in February. TJ in China

In 2013, Barragán and Ruanova started to lobby the Cultural Committee of the Mexican Congress to fund their cross-cultural space. They received 700,000 pesos (about $53,000) and a stipulation: The funds must be spent in Mexico.

TJ in China opened in February in an abandoned curio shop on Tijuana’s famed Avenida Revolución. The space showcases mostly local artists and has a residency program for artists from Beijing. The current exhibit, “The Layered Process as Self Documentaton,” runs through mid-September.

On a Thursday afternoon in July, Barragán and Ruanova sat on red chairs in the middle of the gallery as a parade of flies zipped about, having taken a wrong turn from the taco stand next door.

“We had way more fun in China than we do here,” said Ruanova, lighting a cigarette to chase out the flies. “But we are here with a purpose.”

The two want to plant a seed in a city where they believe it has a lot of room to grow. They also want to bring something home.

“There was something we admired in the art districts in Beijing — that they worked for the people of Beijing. Not for the foreigner who wants to go. And in my case, I can’t hide the fact from myself that I think my work would be more important here than in another place,” Ruanova said.

http://america.aljazeera.com/articles/2014/8/16/art-tijuana-china.html

Escape to Beijing: Tijuana artists explore ties with China

A curious creative partnership is born in the notorious border town

Like much of life along Mexico’s northern edge, border art is often defined by its relationship to the U.S.

“I have an inherent need to create bridges, to reach,” said Patricia Ruiz Bayon, a prominent performance artist in Matamoros, Mexico, just across the border from Brownsville, Texas. “Probably because I have always been at the edge of division.”

But Tijuana artists and partners Mely Barragán and Daniel Ruanova, who grew up on the border, got tired of always looking north.

Although Barragán is a legal resident of the U.S. and Ruanova has dual citizenship, they’ve never been able to build a sustainable relationship with the arts community in the U.S.

Mely Barragán and Daniel Ruanova
Barragán and Ruanova opened an art gallery in the Caochangdi district of Beijing in 2012. Mely Barragán / TJ in China

“It’s always on their terms,” Barragán said of the contacts and visits over the years.

So four years ago they decided to explore in a different direction and immigrated to China. It was a move that has sparked a seemingly unlikely cross-cultural artistic link.

The goal, Ruanova said, was to build new ties so Tijuana artists can “expand the idea of border and create different exit-entry points to TJ instead of being monogamous to the USA.” (“TJ” is how many Tijuana natives refer to their hometown.)

But there was another reason. “It was the furthest and most civilized place we could find that was really, really far away from Mexico and from what we were trying to not think about,” said Ruanova.

Painting by Daniel Ruanova
“!!SPIC” (acrylic on canvas, 2014), a recent painting by Ruanova. Daniel Ruanova

Like most people living through the explosion of drug cartel violence in Tijuana in the late 2000s, Ruanova and Barragán grew paranoid. You could see it in their art. Ruanova’s work at the time — “The F--- Off Project” — included bright, colorful paintings shielded by steely gates and teeth or painted over with the project’s titular epithet in bright red letters.

He also built large-scale metal sculptures with sharp edges that defended the spaces where they were installed. “Protect my space, protect my people, protect my stuff, protect my consensus,” he said back in 2009. “And when you start doing that, you realize when you protect yourself, you’re just giving more energy to this cycle.”

Barragán, meanwhile, constructed soft sculptures of baguette-style leather handbags shaped like chef’s knives.

In 2008 there were 844 homicides in Tijuana. San Diego, which sits just across the border and is comparable in size, had 55 murders that year. The frequent kidnappings and gruesome murders took a toll on Barragán and Ruanova. They were afraid to go out. They kept a gun in their home.

Just two years earlier, the New York Times had hailed Tijuana as the center of a “vibrant new art movement” during the landmark “Strange New World: Art and Design from Tijuana” exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego. That exhibition hosted 130 works from 41 artists, including Ruanova and Barragán. It was the pinnacle of U.S. interest in art from the Mexican side of the border.

By 2008, Tijuana artists — like much of the rest of the city’s residents — were bunkered in their homes, securing themselves behind locked doors.

“It was depressing,” Barragán said. “It was contaminating us as artists.”

Mely Barragan
Young people gather at TJ in China’s opening show in Caochangdi in 2012. TJ in China

When they moved to China, Barragán and Ruanova found very little cultural representation of Mexico. To initiate a cultural exchange between the two nations, they opened the TJ in China project room in Caochangdi, an industrial arts district described as the Williamsburg of Beijing (referring to the Brooklyn neighborhood with a thriving art scene) and stomping grounds of China’s internationally famed artist Ai Wei Wei.

TJ in China showcased contemporary artists from Mexico’s northern border region — like Jaime Ruiz OtisPablo Castañeda and Adriana Trujillo — alongside Beijing artists such as Zhu YuDai Hua and Shinpei Takeda.

But it was not easy to be a commercial hit. Despite packed events, TJ in China never sold a single piece. Not that Barragán and Ruanova found that off-putting. “Maybe some people will see [that] as a negative, but growing up as an artist in TJ — there’s no market,” said Ruanova. “That’s not the reality of why you do art [in Tijuana].” (The pair did, however, continue to sell several of their own pieces outside of the gallery.)

Mely Barragán portrait by Stefan Falke
Photographer Stefan Falke has been shooting portraits of artists all along the U.S.-Mexico border as part of his La Frontera project. Here, Barragán wears one of her pieces, “The Power to Kill / The Kitchen Knife,” at Mercado Hidalgo in Tijuana. Stefan Falke / laif / Redux

Arturo Rodriguez, who runs the upscale Caja Gallery on a winding residential street about two miles from the U.S.-Mexico border, confirms this. Even with pieces by respected border artists like Irma Sofia Poeter and Pablo Llana in his collection, Rodriguez has a tough time attracting buyers.

“It’s difficult because there’s a lot of money here but the people usually …” his voice trailed off as he searched for a diplomatic way to explain the city’s lack of local art buyers. As for San Diego collectors, Tijuana’s security reputation keeps them away.

“There’s no art market,” affirmed Stefan Falke, a German photographer who has spent much of the last six years shooting portraits of artists all along the U.S.-Mexico border, including Barragán and Ruanova. (The photos will be exhibited at New York’s Photoville exhibit in September.)

But for Falke, what’s bad for the artists’ pockets is good for their process.

“Art there is made for the art,” he said.

TJ in China in Tijuana
Barragán and Ruanova opened TJ in China on Avenida Revolución in downtown Tijuana in February. TJ in China

In 2013, Barragán and Ruanova started to lobby the Cultural Committee of the Mexican Congress to fund their cross-cultural space. They received 700,000 pesos (about $53,000) and a stipulation: The funds must be spent in Mexico.

TJ in China opened in February in an abandoned curio shop on Tijuana’s famed Avenida Revolución. The space showcases mostly local artists and has a residency program for artists from Beijing. The current exhibit, “The Layered Process as Self Documentaton,” runs through mid-September.

On a Thursday afternoon in July, Barragán and Ruanova sat on red chairs in the middle of the gallery as a parade of flies zipped about, having taken a wrong turn from the taco stand next door.

“We had way more fun in China than we do here,” said Ruanova, lighting a cigarette to chase out the flies. “But we are here with a purpose.”

The two want to plant a seed in a city where they believe it has a lot of room to grow. They also want to bring something home.

“There was something we admired in the art districts in Beijing — that they worked for the people of Beijing. Not for the foreigner who wants to go. And in my case, I can’t hide the fact from myself that I think my work would be more important here than in another place,” Ruanova said.

TJINCHINA Project Room will be closed during the winter months. The 2012 projects were full of unexpected breakthroughs derived from enlightening situations. We are looking forward to share the experience of our 2013 cycle of propositive cultural mutations employing art practices as the detonating excuses for creating person to person dialogue between Beijing and the borderlands, thus making the flow of ideas the agglutinating force in human contact.