Guan Xiao: Presents Flattened Metal At London’s ICA Through K11 Art Foundation

Guan Xiao

The K11 Art Foundation (KAF) is pleased to announce its second collaboration with the ICA, London: Flattened Metal, the first solo institutional exhibition of emerging Chinese artist Guan Xiao in the UK, which runs from 20 April – 19 June 2016.  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 compartmentalise 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 will include 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 will include text excerpts from other writers on the printed screens, including quotes from the British anthropologist and systems theorist Gregory Bateson (1904 – 1980) 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?”

Guan Xiao, Action, 2014, Courtesy of Guan Xiao and Antenna Space Shanghai

This exhibition will also include 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).

Adrian Cheng, Founder and Honorary Chairman of KAF stated: “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. 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. We are also happy to announce that this exhibition will be rotated to the chi K11 art museum in Shanghai in October this year, and it will develop a dialogue with French artist Neil Beloufa, curated by Victor Wang, curator appointed by KAF.”

Gregor Muir, Executive Director of the ICA says, “We are delighted to collaborate with K11 Art Foundation once more after a hugely successful presentation of Zhang Ding at the ICA in 2015. We have no doubt Guan Xiao’s exhibition will be equally stimulating. With K11 Art Foundation’s support, we are honoured to present Guan Xiao’s first ever solo institutional exhibition in the UK.” 

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.

About the K11 Art Foundation Founded by Adrian Cheng in 2010, the K11 Art Foundation (KAF) is a registered not-for-profit organisation, that supports the development of Chinese contemporary art from Greater China by providing a creative platform that nurtures artistic talents and brings them to the international stage. The Foundation also serves as an incubator for young Chinese curators.

KAF has embarked on many international collaborations, including with the Fundació Gala-Salvador Dalí in Spain, Serpentine Galleries, Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA) in London, Centre Pompidou, Palais de Tokyo and Musée Marmottan Monet in Paris, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art and The Armory Show in New York, showcasing Chinese talents and the voice of the young generation. With eleven studios for its artist-in-residence programmes in the K11 art village in Wuhan, KAF serves as the unique incubating springboard for young and emerging contemporary Chinese artists to create new and meaningful works. Beyond traditional art spaces, K11 art village serves as innovative exchange platforms between local and international artists. Through research, initiatives and partnerships, KAF offers the Chinese public a diverse range of programmes and exhibitions fostering the appreciation of arts and culture.

Image: Guan Xiao, Action, 2014, Courtesy of Guan Xiao and Antenna Space Shanghai

Exhibition dates: 20 April – 19 June 2016


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