Continue to Write a Story in the Exhibition Hall: a performance by Li Ran
Many Places at Once begins its public programming series with a performance by Li Ran entitled Continue to Write a Story in the Exhibition Hall (2014). As a continuation of his most recent project As a Kind of Internal Reference? (2014), a performance initially presented on the occasion of the 2014 Central Academy of Fine Arts Museum (CAFAM) Biennial in Beijing, the performance takes as its point departure the story of an older Chinese artist told to Li Ran. The story details an older Chinese artist experience as he traveled to Europe ultimately encountering Modern Art for the first time in a museum during his twenties or thirties. This encounter resulted in repeated visits to the museum in an attempt to make sense of what was being seen.
Through the impersonation of an older Chinese artist, wearing make-up and fake hair while sitting in a European museum during the 1980s, Continue to Write a Story in the Exhibition Hall (2014) re-stages the moments of discovery and the eventual understanding of Modernism through the act of museum viewing through the eyes of an older Chinese artist. The performance held at the Wattis during the opening of Many Places at Once marks the second chapter of this performance allowing for this story to be narrated in a different sociocultural context, that is, in a U.S. gallery thousands of miles away from Beijing and performed in English for the first time. The shifting of context inherent in this performance allows for multiple perspectives and modes of transmission creating the potential for new discussions around a collective history.
Li Ran (b. 1986, Hubei, China) is a visual artist who currently lives and works in Beijing China. Through a variety of media, including video, performance, painting, installation, and writing, Li Ran investigates how art has been produced and framed by modern history. Through performative narrative, reproduction, mimicry, and satire, Li blurs the lines of art historical truth and questions how its dominant narratives have been normalized and uncritically absorbed by art viewers. By introducing a crucial element of doubt, he aims to expose how history itself is constructed.
Li has exhibited at the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston (2012); OCT Contemporary Art Terminal, Shenzhen, China (2012); Ullens Center for Contemporary Art, Beijing (2013); and the CAFA Art Museum, Beijing (2012 and 2014), among other venues. His work was also featured in the 9th Gwangju Biennale (2012) and the 4th Former West Project (2013).
Image Caption: Li Ran, As a Kind of Internal Reference?, 2014, installation and performance, Plexiglas panels, paintings, bench. Commissioned for the exhibition The Parliament of Things, or, Wandering in a Continuously Bewildering Wonder, curated by Xiaoyu Weng, at the 2014 Central Academy of Fine Arts Museum Biennial, Beijing, China. Courtesy the artist