As a curator I am interested in the inter-dependence between art, architecture, society, and how all of them relate in the construction of public and urban space. This approach pushes me towards collaborations with artists whose artistic approach is not concentrated on producing a physical art work, but who are more concentrated on creating situations or interactions, which need local or social involvement, and reflect upon historical, social, or political contexts. Because of my background – having been born in a communist country and grown up in a new capitalistic reality – I like to observe and comment on the changes, differences and similarities, between so-called „East and West”. I explore problems of gender, as well as cultural, political, or historical identity. All these aspects led me to the conclusion that art, apart from its esthetic and decorative values, should be dependent on the situation and context, and towards building dialogues and confrontations between societies.
I would like to present a Chinese female artist Xinglang Guo, whom I first met during her stay in culturia residency in Berlin in 2011, and whose artistic development I have been following since then. Xinglang Guo was born in 1984 in Tinjin in China. She has studied both at the Nankai University in China and at the Bauhaus University in Weimar. While studying in Germany she has been concentrating on performance and art in public spaces. Since 2011 she lives and works in Berlin, where she has already participated in various solo and group exhibitions.
Xinglang Guo uses her body to search for the limits of her exploration and emotions. She treats it as a non-verbal way to communicate with the public. While preparing for the new project she tries to integrate her own experiences, memory and dreams, with body movements, gestures, and facial expressions. Her approach is to set up an interaction not only with the space itself, but more importantly, with the participants who, no matter if they will participate or not, are engaged and become an active element of Xinglang Guo’s interventions.
What has attracted me the most in her artistic practice is an approach toward body and public space. Her own body changes to an artistic tool, which becomes both: artistic object and medium. The objective character of her body is seen in these performances, in which it becomes an integral part of public space. In these projects she unites with the architectural forms (Human Body as Architecture, Berlin 2012) or she confronts with unknown people (“The Follower” or “The Querer”).
Xinglang Guo’s body has been passively confronted with either architectural objects or human bodies building a misleading cluster of contradictions. In confrontation with the architectural structure, the body of the artist is seen as a continuations of the architectural forms, or opposingly, as a disturbing element in the established urban landscape. When the artist confronts her body with other people, her artistic pose changes into an extremely passive one. The interaction between the artist and the accidently met people is not meant to take place, on the contrary, she tries to arise a feeling of discomfort and strangeness. Often the boarder between each of her artistic actions is so thin that it is hard to clearly define which of her activities should be described as only a performance, an intervention, or interpreted as an installation. The fluent transition between installation performance and intervention in public space allows the artist to open her work to a wider interpretation and does not close it into one, a correct and certain.
While analyzing the artistic practice of Xinglang Guo I cannot help myself to not refer to another great female artist, Valie Export. Although this establish artist with worldwide recognition represents a totally different art generation, and a different approach towards art, the same attitude towards using the body in public space could be seen in performances of Xinglang Guo and the Austrian artist. By comparing the two projects: Valie Export’s ”Body Configurations” made in the 70s and 80s of the last century, and Xinglang Guo’s performances played in public spaces, it could be clearly seen that the Chinese artist unconsciously (or maybe she is aware) took the same path started by the Austrian artist almost 4 decades ago. Guo’s body as well, somehow tries to fit into the public space and give it a human character.
Paulina Olszewska is an independent art curator and art critic. She studied Art History at the Jagiellonian University in Kraków (Poland). Since 2010 she lives and works in Berlin. As a curator she collaborates with various artists from all around the world. She has curated projects in different European cities, such as Warsaw, Kraków, Nürnberg, Aarhus and Berlin. As an art critic she is recognized for her cooperation with Polish art magazines such as „Obieg“ or „Architektura i Biznes“. In 2011 she joined berlinerpool, Berlin artist archive, and since then she supports its activities.
berlinerpool is an artist initiative that structures a cooperative network of artists, curators and art spaces. The online profile pages and mobile archive provide information about berlinerpool members. berlinerpool offers consulting and research services for curators, develops its own projects and participates in exhibitions and events.