Guan Xiao: The Victor’s Privilege – Rewriting History At The ICA London

Guan Xiao

The ICA London is currently presenting the work of Chinese artist Guan Xiao. The artist employs mainly sculpture and video, exploring the influence of the proliferation of the digital image as the primary form of information exchange. Xiao works with appropriated video clips found on the internet juxtaposed with sculptural elements and installation, exploring ‘ways of seeing’.

The artist’s installation incorporates a series of screens printed with repetitive images. In front of these repetitions are a collection of sculptural objects in juxtaposition. The objects – often iconic or totemic in nature – are at once highlighted and obscured by their backgrounds. The screens also become banners; mirroring advertising, printed with abstract slogans in the form of text, superimposed over these repetitive, appropriated images.

Image: Guan Xiao, Flattened Metal in association with K11 Art Foundation, installation view, ICA, 2016. Photo: P A Black © 2016.

The repetitive appropriated image highlights the very nature of this digital age. Xiao uses the internet as a ‘massive material bank’, the work “Action” draws upon this memory bank of digital information, focusing on the difficulty of understanding the past from the perspective of the present. The piece builds an imposed narrative on a collection of chosen moments, recontextualising the images to fit a designed purpose. These clips pulled from the web form a ‘rewrite’ of history. Superimposed over the images are a series of slogans: designs for self-empowerment, including, “Make your own rhythms with action” or, “When you find your position and make your own relevance, your world will start running.”

Image: Guan Xiao, Flattened Metal in association with K11 Art Foundation, installation view, ICA, 2016. Photo: P A Black © 2016.

The artist attempts to explore the incomprehensible nature of the past in the information age; it is the very quantity, nature and ability to manipulate this information that makes truth an impossibility to judge. We can literally recreate our pasts in the editing suite. This particular reality gives rise to aesthetic and cognitive possibilities in the present. Forms change meaning, contexts and juxtapositions are revised as the history of their language is changed by the rewriting of past narratives. Xiao could be seen as the ‘victor’ highlighting the disturbing fact that those in control of information can indeed rewrite history, and in turn manipulate perception.

About the artist:

Guan Xiao (b. 1983, Chongqing; lives and works in Beijing) received her BA in Directing at the Communication University of China in 2006 and has exhibited internationally including at the OCT Contemporary Art Terminal, Shenzhen, the V&A Museum, London, the National Museum of Contemporary Art, Korea, Seoul; the Shanghai Art Museum and the Art Museum of Nanjing University of Art. Selected exhibitions include: the shortlisted exhibition of Hugo Boss Asia Art Award, Rockbund Art Museum, Shanghai, 2015; Basic Logic, Antenna Space, Shanghai, 2015, 13th Biennale de Lyon: La vie modern, Lyon, 2015, 2015 Triennial: Surround Audience, New Museum, New York, 2015, From a Poem to the Sunset, New acquisitions of contemporary Chinese and international art, Daimler Contemporary Berlin, 2015; Rare Earth, Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary, Vienna, 2015; China Design Now, Victoria & Albert Museum, London, 2007; and Floating – New Generation of Art in China, National Museum of Contemporary Art, Seoul, 2007.

Words: Paul Black © Artlyst 2016

Lead image: Guan Xiao, Flattened Metal in association with K11 Art Foundation, installation view, ICA, 2016. Photo: P A Black © 2016

Guan Xiao: Flattened Metal in association with K11 Art Foundation – ICA, London – until 19 June 2016


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