USC Asia Architecture & Urbanism Study Abroad Program

Changing the Unchangeable

While walking around Shanghai’s art district, M-50, I found this statement typed up on a piece of paper, serving as an introduction to one of the gallery spaces: “Man collects art, while art collects history.”   This particular gallery was mainly devoted to the notions of time, art, and space, and how these qualities reflect upon each other to subsequently become the threads that tie the exhibition together.  This exhibition consisted of 1100 one-minute repetitive and animated videos which were all art masterpieces, shown through the artist’s (Hu Jieming) deconstructed lens.  The intent of the artist was to condense 100 years of art history into these 1100 videos, portraying how the status and/or meaning of particular artworks will eventually change.  Whether these changes occur due to the aging or distortion of the work of art or the ever-changing views that society has, change nevertheless transpires.

After reading a piece on the author, I came to discover how his intent for the exhibition was to praise the “destruction” of these masterpieces.  This became the most interesting point to the exhibit for me – taking all these works of art which society declares as “masterpieces,” essentially destroying them, making them his own, and then displaying them through film next to pieces equally “destroyed. “  It seems interesting that in the introduction to this gallery, the curator chose to use the quote, “Man collects art, while art collects history.”  Reason being, in this case, the art which has collected history thus far, is being highly transformed into something that molds into today’s perception of art.  One piece of art, therefore, may have many various lifetimes and new courses of history.  Over the course of a masterpiece’s lifetime, it can continuously be shaped into what the contemporary artist sees as a display of this period in time.

So what really makes a “masterpiece”?  The time period, the artist, the viewers, the collectors, the theme of the art …all of these are critical points used when analyzing art.  When analyzing art in the terms of simply as a collection of history, it can give off an entirely different meaning, as demonstrated in the exhibition by Hu Jieming.  The Mona Lisa, for example was one of the distorted masterpieces in the gallery’s exhibit.  For centuries, the Mona Lisa has been seen as an extremely significant work of art, as is.  On the other hand, once Hu Jieming puts a filter on this painted portrait and illustrates a way in which he believes represents the present and collages it with 1100 other images, it takes on a whole new and imprecise meaning.

I think for many people, masterpieces in art are seen as unchanging – once a masterpiece, always a masterpiece – a snapshot of history.  What makes art exciting, though, is that it does have the ability to continuously morph into something based on time and space.  Taking pieces of historical culture and creating something contemporary and fresh, lets us get the most we can out of art.  The introduction to this gallery states, “The only unchanging thing is that everything will change. “  Since change is inevitable, why not embrace it through morphing objects of history that are not forced to be stagnant?


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AAU FALL 2013:

University of Southern California
School of Architecture
Asia Architecture and Urbanism
Study Abroad Program

Andrew Liang
Bu Bing
Steven Chen
Yo-Ichiro Hakomori
Andrew Liang
Yuyang Liu
Neville Mars
Academic Contributors:
Thomas Chow, SURV
Bert de Muynck, Movingcities.org
Manying Hu, SZGDADRI, ITDP, Guangzhou
Clare Jacobson, Design Writer, Editor, Curator
Laurence Liauw, SPADA, Hong Kong
Mary Ann O'Donnell, Shenzhen Noted, Fat Bird, Shenzhen
Paul Tang, Verse, Shanghai
Li Xiangning, Tongji University, Shanghai
Daniel Aguilar
Hong Au
Michael den Hartog
Caroline Duncan
Nefer Fernandez
Christian Gomez
Isabelle Hong
Jin Hong Kim
Ashley Louie
Javier Meier
Paula Narvaez
Ashlyn Okimoto
Tamar Partamian
Samuel Rampy
Luis Villanueva
Krista Won
Tiffany Wu

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