Bird Head and Shi Yong at the 54th Venice Art Biennale

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ShanghART Gallery is pleased to announce the participation of Bird Head (Ji Weiyu & ) in the upcoming 54th Venice Art Biennale ILLUMInations, opening June 4 – November 27, 2011 and in Glasstress 2011 at Palazzo Cavalli Franchetti, opening June 4 – November 27, 2011.

Bird Head is a photographic collective founded in 2004, consisting of Ji Weiyu (1980) and Song Tao (1979). Many, if not most, of their photographs are of themselves and their immediate surroundings. A strongly autobiographical strain or diary-like narrative runs through the work. There is an intensity and spontaneity that offers a glimpse into their world without any artifice. Every moment is shown as it is, with no convolution or adornment. The pictures (47×57 cm) presented in Venice – black-and-white and colour – are organized formally and presented in grids delineated by a poem in Chinese characters.

It is a visual diary of their friendship and of the city of Shanghai; a sum of interesting faces, expressions, and instances. Seen through their lens, they seem to become fully and inevitably themselves, with their personalities and physical appearance integrally linked. All of these elements are presented as casual snapshots, but that also has the snapshot’s uncanny ability to reveal anguish and loss. The photographs document the sum of instances that life is about. Bird Head embraces everything, despite affliction. The aesthetic is not a corrective to life, or life as someone wishes it were, but as complex as the thing itself. Their lives are their work and their work, their lives.

Ji Weiyu (1980) and Song Tao (1979) live and work in Shanghai. The artists graduated from the Shanghai Arts and Carafts School (2000). Recent exhibitions include Artist File 2011, National Art Center, Tokyo, Japan (2011), China Power Station IV, Pinacoteca Agnelli, Torino, Italy (2010), Emporium, The National Museum of Technology ‘Leonardo da Vinci’, Milano, Italy (2009), China Now, Max Lang Gallery, NYC, (2009), China Power Station II, Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art, Oslo, Norway (2007), Bird Head 2006-2007 Photography Show, BizArt Art Center, Shanghai, China (2007), and Individual Position II, ShanghART H-Space, Shanghai, China (2007).

Shi Yong’s work embraces modernization and the ideology of consumerism as the basis for self-imagination and creation. He has produced a series of photo-based works around the concept of the ideal Shanghai citizen. It is an ongoing multifaceted project that explores images of consumption, commodity and the development of the culture industry. One series, entitled “Made in China – Welcome to China” (1999), consists of hand-painted plaster models of a young businessman in a Mao suit, sunglasses, briefcase and waving. The image of the ideal citizen used for the statue was the outcome of an Internet project through which Shi Yong asked volunteers to vote for the ideal way of looking. The individual now transforms the identity of his or her self by following the logic of commodity market surveys. It is a composite image that Shi Yong has repeatedly used in other pieces such as “Longing For” (2000) and “You Cannot Clone It, But You Can Buy It” (2001). The iconic figure is morphed through the agency of the marketplace.

Recently, Shi Yong has focused his attention on large-scale installations and architectural models imbued with an absurd twist of humor. Most notably, his mixed media installation “Flying Q” is of a UFO built with the purpose of opening up the sky. The flying object comes with no additional explanation, but might be recognized as just another signature vision of and interventions into the imaginary world of Shi Yong. His subversive approach pokes fun at architecture based on rules and pre-established schemas. Shi Yong fabricates a colorful and ironic architectural structure that is at once a parody of serious design and its synthesis. In short, his work is an amalgam of Shanghai’s eclectic ‘anything goes’ attitude towards the built environment.

Shi Yong was born in Shanghai in 1963. He graduated from Light Industrial School, Fine Art Department. He resides and works in Shanghai. Shi Yong has exhibited widely since the early 1990’s. Recent shows include Follow Me!, Mori Art Museum (Tokyo, 2005), Second Guangzhou Triennale, Guangsong Museum of Art (2005), Zooming into Focus, China National Art Museum (Beijing, 2005), Felicidad Indecible, Tamayo Museum of Contemporary Art (Mexico, 2005), The Heaven, The World, ShanghART Gallery & H-Space (Shanghai, 2004), Shanghai Biennale (2002), Bienal de Sao Paulo (2002) and Bienal de Maia (1999).