As one of the most influential artists of the world, James Turrell creates poetic works that subvert our experience and perception of the light, colors, and space. Calvin Tompkins, critic of The New Yorker, once wrote, “His works are not only about light or depicting the light; his works are the light—light that exists and realizes through perception.” Turrell’s artworks could only be found in specific places, such as the Gathered Sky installed in the Zhi Zhu Temple in Beijing and The Light Inside which connects the old and new pavilions of Houston Museum of Fine Arts. This brings us to the question: what does James Turrell bring to the architecture? In a broader context, what does art bring to the city and public space? This was the main topic of the latest forum held by APSMUSEUM.
The forum was hosted by Mr. Zhang Junjie, President and Chief Architect of ECADI. Guests included Mr. Leng Lin, Pace Gallery Partner and the President of Pace Beijing, Hong Kong and Seoul, Founder of Beijing Commune Gallery; Mr. Xu Yibo, Chinese partner and Chief Architect of SBA China; artist Hu Weiyi, and architecture scholar and curator Ms. Mo Wanli.
The forum started with a discussion of James Turrell’s artworks and his influence on Chinese contemporary art. Pace Gallery has been working with the artist for many years, and the gallery’s director Mr. Leng gave us an introduction of the artist’s works. Turrell was the pioneer and major participant in the Light and Space movement started in 1960s. He uses light as his medium and reshapes the space with color and people’s perception. For most people, Turrell’s works stands for a pure, if not minimalist, perception of color and space; however, Mr. Leng pointed out that people could also understand Turrell as a new-media artist. Turrell once said, “To some extent, in order to control light, I have to know how to create light. The medium I use is almost like my canvas. When I install a work, I have to make it so perfect that you cannot even notice it.” The sensual atmosphere and extremely calculated technology that Turrell’s works embrace have made them the inspiration for many new-media artists.” Artist Hu Weiyi, who has been working with multiple mediums, agreed with the idea. When he saw the Turrell’s work that is now on view at APSMUSEUM, he immediately noticed the technology behind the work. He thought the technology was one of the most important reasons why James Turrell could make such impactful works. However, the lack of such kind of technology in China makes it difficult for artists to create works that could be compared to those of Turrell’s.
The discussion then moved on to the relationship between architecture and art and their mutual influence. Italian architect, Stefano Boeri has been working with many artists for years. As the Chinese partner and Chief Architect of SBA China, Mr. Xu shared his latest experience of working with artist Tomás Saraceno from a practical perspective. He thought that working with the artist at an early stage gave more possibilities in terms of the use of space and also became a pivotal point of the successful cooperation. Ms. Mo, who also generously shared her abundant experience in architecture and curating, thought that the boundary between architectural and artistic creations had become more blurred than ever. For example, artists such as Thomas Heatherwick also work for many architectural projects. However, different from artists, architects take functionality into account as architecture cannot abandon its practical usage.
As it is said in the curatorial words of Ensemble Urbain, the city binds the works of the past, the contemporary, and the future. The city itself is an artwork created by generations of people and also an “exhibition” witnessed by its people. The relationship between public art and the city space is another major topic of the forum. The host, Mr. Zhang, mentioned at the end of the forum what we could do to improve the metropolitan city—Shanghai. The conversation started with the introduction of Shanghai City Space Season which had been taking place over the past years and the public artworks along the Huangpu riverside. Mr. Leng said that he was looking forward to seeing a greater impact that art could have on the city’s public space. Mr. Hu introduced his work which was included in the Shanghai City Space Season in 2019 and shared his working experience in a non-museum context. Mr. Xu talked about him taking part in the curatorial process of the 2017 Shanghai City Space Season and discussed the significance of exhibition on the quality of space and provoking the city’s vitality. Moreover, Mr. Xu took Milan as an example and pointed out that public art had made the encounter with art more possible. Ms. Mo mentioned that, from a global perspective, many countries had approved the “Hundred Percent Policy”, therefore promoting and ensuring the development of public art from legal and monetary perspectives.
From light and color to space and the city, art has entered the urban space and people’s life in an intuitive way, and thus reshaping the public space as well as our everyday life.
Leng Lin is the Pace Gallery Partner and the President of Pace Beijing, Hong Kong and Seoul. He is founder of Beijing Commune Gallery and the member of artist collective group-“Polit-Sheer-Form Office” which was initiated by artists Song Dong, Hong Hao, Xiao Yu and Liu Jianhua in 2005.
Zhang Junjie, President and Chief Architect of ECADI, State Council Expert for Special Allowance, Shanghai’s Leading Talent, Professor-Level Senior Engineer.
Member of the National Registered Architects Management Committee; Standing Director of the Architectural Society of China; part-time researcher of Southeast University; Director of the High-rise Building Human Settlement Environmental Academic Committee of the Architectural Society of China; Vice Chairman of the Shanghai Architectural Society and Chairman of the Registered Architect Branch; Director of the Shanghai Green Building Planning and Architectural Design; Director of Engineering Technology Research Center of the Shanghai Super High-rise Building Design, etc.
Dr. Xu Yibo, the practitioner of Vertical Forest and Forest City in China, the National First Class Registered Architect, the Chinese partner of Stefano Boeri Architetti(SBA) and the guest lecturer of China Academy of Art.
Dr. Xu Yibo worked in Cino Zucchi Architetti (CZA) in Milan and Office for Metropolitan Architecture (OMA) in Rotterdam. Since 2010, Dr. Xu Yibo has been in working on projects of Vertical Forests in SBA.
Dr. Xu has taught graduate students at Architecture School of Polimi. He has published many theses on city renovation and green buildings on International journals and translated several Italian academic publications including the monograph written by Stefano Boeri, A Vertical Forest. He was invited to many renowned domestic and International exhibitions and events including Venice Biennale of Architecture, Beijing Design Week, 2015 Shanghai Urban Space Season, Shanghai Project 2116 Plan and 2017 SUSAS.
As the Chinese partner and chief architect of SBA China, Dr. Xu leads the major projects including Nanjing Vertical Forest, Guizhou Mountain Hotel, Lishui Forest City Master Plan, Pudong Airport Jungle, Renovation of Shanghai Stock Exchange, Shanghai Hecheng Renovation, Huanggang Vertical Forest City Complex and Shanghai Vertical Forest Tea Hotel.
Hu Weiyi was born in 1990 in Shanghai China. He graduated from the China Academy of Art with a BA in Public Art in 2013, concluding his studies with an MA in Media. He lives and works in Shanghai. His work has been the subject of major museum solo shows including the Asian Art Center Taipei and Ullens Center for Contemporary Art Beijing. Further exhibitions have included the Yuz Museum, Power Station of Art, Long Museum, MoCA Shanghai, Guang Dong Times Museum, Minsheng Art Museum, CAFA Art Museum, Hong Kong Arts Centre. His work has been exhibited at international institutions including Helmhaus Zürich, White Rabbit Gallery Chippendale, and V2 Rotterdam. In 2014 Hu Weiyi won the 2nd Art Sanya Huayu Youth Award.
In depth research and an interest in experimental film and theatrical performance imbue Hu Weiyi’s multimedia experiments, which he uses to open new avenues for social ethnography, both as artist and curator. Working in photography, video and installation he is a resourceful montage artist. A series called Flirt introduced cold light to various objects to manipulate a viewer’s perception of them, an effect he achieved without resorting to digital software manipulation.
Mo Wanli is an emerging curator and architecture scholar. Her research focuses on contemporary forms of life and its relationship with material and immaterial productions. Mo has published widely in Architectural Journal, Time+Architecture, Urban Environment Design, Retrospecta and etc. Since 2018, she has served as the acting editor of Architecture China. Mo is the curator of Home, Sweet Home(2017) exhibition at Shanghai Power Station of Arts. She has also served as an assistant curator of the Pavilion of China, Biennale Architettura, 2018 Shanghai Urban Space Art Season 2017. She is also a doctoral student at the College of Architecture and Urban Planning, Tongji University. She received her Master of Architecture Degree from Yale University.