Friday, March 28, 2014
Taiping Tianguo: Revisited

E-Flux recently presented the show Taiping Tianguo - A History of Possible Encounters: Ai Wei Wei, Frog King Kwok, Tehching Hsieh, and Martin Wong in New York. Exploring the histories of these four Chinese artists during their time in New York in the 80s and 90s, the show questions the interactions each artist may have had to one another given their overlapping time spent in the Big Apple. Furthermore, it examines what can be said about time and place in art history, as well as the development of their art practices, when looking at their works together.
Here are some photos from the exhibition:

Young Ai Wei Wei

Young Ai Wei Wei

Young Ai Wei Wei

Young Ai Wei Wei

Young & Nude Ai Wei Wei

Ai Wei Wei - Cuffs

Ai Wei Wei - Hanger

Kwok - detail of artwork

Kwok - detail of artwork

Kwok - detail of artwork

Martin Wong - artwork on book

Young Teh Ching Hsieh

Teh Ching Hsieh - One Year Prison Performance

Walking Tour on Martin Wong
As the exhibition presents, certain connections were forged between the four artists while in New York. For example, Kwok provided significant assistance for Hsieh in his One Year Performances, Wong and Ai had been friends themselves, as well as there being multiple interactions between these artists at KWOK Gallery (Kwok's SoHo gallery at the time). With the early days of contemporary Asian/ Asian American art, it is interesting to take note which artists have crossed paths and through what particular avenues. In addition, it is highly probable that the Asian American Arts Centre, also played a factor in forming the relationships between these important figures. As Bob Lee, AAAC Director, reflects on the interactions these artists had to AAAC:
"I recall Ai Wei Wei rarely came by, only once or twice did I see him hanging around and only later, in 1985 when he participated in an exhibition and helped finalize a poster for the show.  Kwok was around lots, a very friendly fun guy. We did several things with him. We hung around his home/gallery too, before AAAC exhibitions started. Martin was around but only after we had him in an open studio exhibition in 1985. I visited Teh Ching Hsieh when he set up the prison piece... but he rarely came by AAAC, only much later during his 13 year piece did he stop by to see an exhibition of his friend Zheng Liangjie in 2002."

Ai Wei Wei participated in an Open Studio exhibition called Ten Chinatown in 1985 and helped Bob Lee with the layout of the poster.  The design incorporated Martin Wong’s Chinese Opera figures. It was selected by Exit Art for their Alternative Histories exhibition in 2010 as pictured here. Ai Wei Wei's name is printed on the lower right.

While each artist spent a limited time with AAAC, their paths may have crossed or overlapped with one another during their time within this space. Moreover, their interactions were not limited to each other, but developed with other fellow Asian/ Asian American artists that participated in the Asian American Arts Centre. Such is a possibility in AAAC's first panel discussion in 1983, Eye to Eye, which brought together Asian American visual artists on the East Coast to discuss mutual concerns. It was given the name to imply that a meeting of the mind was necessary to recognize what was happening between two cultures, two outlooks. In these old pictures of the panel below, there looks to be a man that may be Teh Ching Hsieh. Though it cannot be entirely sure that this was him, these photos still give proof to the pertinent interactions of Asian American artists and their solidarity in the beginning stages of the Asian American Arts Movement. 

It is intriguing to think about the crossing paths of Ai WeiWei, Teh Ching Hsieh, Martin Wong or Kwok Man Ho because they are prominent now. As Asian American art becomes better understood and a critical consensus emerges around its role within a Western context, other artists will acquire attention, and their interrelationships may also become intriguing to think about. 

AAAC's Eye to Eye Panel (1983)Panel: David Diao, Margo Machida, Lucy Lippard, Lydia Okumura, Kit Yin Snyder, John Woo, John Yau

Eye to Eye Audience

Some of the panelists with Bob Lee AAAC curator before the start of the event, including Lucy Lippard, Margo Machida, and Kit Yin Snyder. Kwok's artwork hangs in the back.

Was this Teh Ching Hsieh? Sitting next to Nina Kuo who operated the slide projector. Eye to Eye was held June 25th and Teh Ching Hsieh's year long performance with Linda Montano started in July. The possibility is there.

Was this Teh Ching Hsieh?
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