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Surface Tension (chengdu)

Artist: Melanie Irwin

Title: Surface Tension  作品名称: 表面的张力

Material: Furniture borrowed from XLY MoMA, found objects, textiles, bamboo, pins, twine, chalk marker 


Size: Variable  尺寸:可变尺寸

Year: 2013   创作时间:2013


It was a great privilege to be part of A Half Scene organized by Australia China Art Foundation at XLY Museum of Modern Art, Chengdu, June 2013. The exhibition was curated by Wei Yan and included Chinese artists from the North Village Independent Workshop and five other Australian artists. I undertook a short residency sponsored by ACAF at the museum, during which time I installed my work in the gallery and prepared for my performance. The museum staff, along with Miss Milia Bi of ACAF, were welcoming and extremely supportive, helping me to source the specific materials that I needed to make my work (this included a visit to a local second-hand market with North Village artist Zhao Huan).

Chengdu is a sprawling, gritty place; however there are trees and gardens everywhere, even on the rooftops of high-rise buildings. The people are friendly and the spicy Sichuan food is delicious. Our sightseeing included a visit to the Giant Panda Breeding Sanctuary and Kuanxiangzi Alley, where we saw a traditional Sichuan face-changing performance.

I also visited the vast, brand-new Blue Roof Contemporary Art Museum and some artist studios in the Blue Roof complex. It was fascinating to observe the contexts in which local artists make their work. Artist Yang Mian accompanied us to the Museum of Contemporary Art, where we saw a group exhibition of Belgian artists, Wanderlust, curated by Hans Maria de Wolf and including work by Francis Alÿs, Marcel Broodthaers, Honoré ’O, Joëlle Tuerlinckx and Panamarenko.

A Half Scene was a fantastic opportunity for me to present my work in an international context and it was rewarding for me to realize the ways in which art can transcend language barriers. I really appreciate the support and sponsorship of ACAF to facilitate my participation in this exhibition with a production residency for my installation works.



我还参观了蓝顶当代艺术博物馆和附近的一些艺术家工作室。我非常高兴能了解到当地艺术家的艺术生态。感谢艺术家杨勉陪同我们一同参观蓝顶当代艺术博物馆,在那里我们看到了艺术家群展——由比利时策展人汉斯·玛丽亚·德·沃尔夫策划,参展艺术家包括Francis Alÿs, Marcel Broodthaers、 Honoré ’O、Joëlle Tuerlinckx 和Panamarenko.




An Exquisite and Eloquent Auto-sadism
------Watching the first performance art by Australian artist Melanie Irwin in China

On June 7th 2013, “1/2 Scene” North Village Independent Workshop (NVIW) and Australian Artist Group Exhibition, which was held by ACAF opened at Xu Liaoyuan MoMA.

The opening ceremony was bustling with crowded and excitement. When I stepped into the second floor of the exhibition hall, I found that people were extremely quiet. Everyone was staring at a blonde and white lady (who was found to be Melanie later), who was showing movements look like ballet, exquisite, eloquent and leisure, and her calmness added up to the serenity of the show. Chengdu is the most renowned city for performance art in China. Audiences all realised that it was a performance art show and watched for minutes. As an artist who also creates performance art, I realised that I was experiencing an excellent performance art. I asked a few friends to watch it with me before long.

As one type of the visual art, performance art also needs certain extent of formation. Plenty of “Performance Arts” seem to be swift and crude. Compared with them, Melanie apparently prepared well, with black tight-fitting clothes, black elbow-protector, black shoes---matches with her slender figure. The black ground set her pink chalk marker and yellow ruler off, as well as many bundles of exquisite installation----“#” shaped cubic structure (consisting thin and wooden chopstick has two sharp tips and seems to be pricking), including a reel of thread thrown by her on the cold and stiff ground---They all manifested exquisite beauty. Later I read the brief introduction about this work. When Ms. Yashian Schauble, who is the founder and CEO of ACAF, invited me to write a related critics, I decided to express on the basis of an audience on live.

When talking about locality of performance art, all the elements provided by Melanie harmonized with the scene. Luckily, although there were only a few audiences, it catered for the simplicity she expected. Under this circumstance, Melanie initiates her performance: throwing a red reel of thread, making the mark at the landing spot, and then drawing the red straight line between different landing spots; Moreover, every time she throw away the reel, she would cut part of the red line, and tie up a “#” shaped structure to the body (Firstly legs, then spreading across the whole body). More structure added up on body, more closely should she bend to ground when she tried to draw the line---It appeared to be increasingly difficult, laborious and even torturing. It took a long time to conduct the performance, and Melanie behaved calm and reserved in the whole process, even when the body became uncomfortable due to the increasing structure, she kept enduring, like a nun who was immersed in certain lesson and auto-sadism.

I comment carefully on the work impressing me. On the artist talk happened on the day of exhibition, I express my instinctive feeling towards this work----The red reel of thread symbolize human desire (You could call it fervent dream, even our lives), every marking of the landing spot is like the phase named by Buddhist, it is also the destination human desire attempts to seek in the reality, attempt (although Melanie’s performance show intensive and serious control, but every landing spot steel includes uncertainty, concealing the meaning of “nihility”), while the consistent connecting lines mark the will that human hope to carry on living and doing, as well as “Sankhata” mentioned by Buddhist; However, the “row of desire” cut for the frivolous, pink and dreamy track will constrain and prick the author. The installation of body constantly binds and overlies, like prison oneself in a cocoon---The more track we attempt to add, the more torturing body becomes. Lao Zi said, “Acquiring or abandoning, which really makes sense? Body or money, which one is important?”

The work of Melanie has enlightened the world, especially contemporary people. How can human deal with its own desire and attempt? The place and time this performance art occurred, Cheng du was holding the world-class “wealth forum”, this should not be merely a coincidence; another work displaying at the second floor of the museum is not a coincidence either, namely the installation “8 minute 20 second” by Chengdu female artist Deng Xiao (there were plenty of gigantic white balloons in a glassed room, whose gas was charged by a huge cylinder), when Melanie conducted her performance silently, Deng Xiao’s installation made sound of explosion of balloons, whether it was a intensive warning: like earthquake, typhoon, tidal wave which are all warning given by the god to human----Every creature has a soul, and human is only one part of the nature, constraining desire and cherishing nature, or the end of the world is approaching?

The installation that was put in advance in Melanie’s performance scene---the white, abnormally shaped, quiet membrane, the line surrounded the ground was not pink but the white line-----whether it symbolize our departure or destination----whether it is heaven or nothingness?

Luo Zidan   Chengdu  12th.Jun.2013








罗子丹 于成都 2013.6.12

Surface Tension (chengdu)


Surface Tension (chengdu)
Furniture borrowed from XLY MoMA, found objects, textiles, bamboo, pins, twine, chalk marker

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