Sleeping Life Away
17 March – 16 May 2012
Galerie Nathalie Obadia is delighted to present the first exhibition in France by MadeIn Company, a “contemporary art company” founded in 2009 by the artist Xu Zhen, aged 35, a rising star in Chinese contemporary art, who comes from Shanghai.
The iconoclastic creation of a renowned artist who, in the age of the artist as star, has decided to forgo his personal identity, MadeIn is a unique entity on the contemporary scene, a kind of “unidentified artistic object” that challenges the sacrosanct notion of the author with intelligence and ironic humour. MadeIn Company is a genuine business which employs a score of men and women to ‘”research infinite cultural possibilities,” as its founding charter states. Moving been straight reality and parody, this application of the corporate model to art-making has resulted in the creation of a think tank capable of coming up with powerful and surprising artworks in a wide variety of media (paintings, sculptures, installations), which are always seen from a curatorial viewpoint.
For its first exhibition at Galerie Nathalie Obadia, MadeIn Company has thus put together an authentic conceptual programm announced by its manifesto-like title, Sleeping Life Away, which alerts visitors to the danger of collective anaesthesia in the age of mass consumption and the reign of communications (image over substance) in politics.
Six alluring and colorful large-format collages offer an alternative vision of human history. The combination of Chinese and western imagery gleaned from the Internet – traditional Chinese prints, French 19th-century caricatures, medieval images, exotic bestiaries – mediated through a patchwork of sensuous materials (fabric, feathers, sequins, beads, etc.) brings to mind the folkloric dimension of big traditional tapestries while distancing the epic yet ridiculous narratives of the dominant ideology.
In this same spirit of demystifying imperial, military and colonial propaganda, three series of imposing sculptures are installed in the gallery. These black, bulky pieces recalling primitive totems feature soldier figures: in one, a man with peaked cap advances proudly on the back of a lion, epitomizing the ambiguity of power which, while claiming to protect, becomes tyrannical. This ambiguity is heightened by the contrast between the grandiose dimensions of these icons, some of them over three meters high, and the insubstantial nature of the foam from which they are made – as insubstantial as these empty and deceptive mass representations.
MadeIn Company has exhibited in numerous international institutions, notably the Ullens Center for Contemporary Art in Beijing, Kunsthalle Bern, the Ikon Gallery in Birmingham, the S.M.A.K in Ghent, and the Minsheng Art Museum, Shanghai. MadeIn Company featured in the 8th Shanghai Biennale in 2008 and at the Busan Biennale (South Korea) in 2010.
With Sleeping Life Away, Xu Zhen is leading his “Company” (almost in the theatrical sense of the word) towards a productive act of emulation, prompting viewers to emerge from their existential torpor and question their assumptions about the world and its hallowed representations.