video with sound, 10 mins
Vancouver Art Gallery’s FUSE is an enormously popular quarterly event where art, music, performance and drama collide; it was reinvented on the night of Friday November 14, 2014 as Revolution Counter Revolution. Guest curated by multi-media maestro Paul Wong, RCR was an unforgettable evening that riffed and mashed new ideas with old traditions, inspired by the Gallery’s concurrent exhibition The Forbidden City: Inside the Court of China’s Emperors. RCR was staged as part of the opening of Unscrolled: Reframing Tradition in Chinese Contemporary Art, a major exhibition featuring three generations of Chinese artists. In addition RCR riffed off Emily Carr and Landon Mackenzie: Wood Chopper and the Monkey.
Revolution Counter Revolution’s extraordinary lineup of artists, musicians and performers fully engaged visitors’ senses throughout the Gallery. Four floors of the exhibition space were transformed with radical idealism and injected with iconic revolutionary figures, including:
• The Rebels – A trio of roving performers who occupied different spaces outside and inside the Forbidden City and Unscrolled exhibitions. An interdisciplinary trio that posed, barked, danced and interacted with the spaces, art and the public. Madam Mao , enacted by Cara Sui, this tragic heroine/villain, wife of the Chairman, architect of the Cultural Revolution and leader of the Gang of Four, engaged the public through a critique on art and culture. Red Guard, taking cues from the Red Detachment of Women Ballet created during the Cultural Revolution in China (1966-1976), Carolyn Chan transforms from a peasant woman to a heroic feminist warrior. The Monkey King, Michael Kong adopted the role of the mythical trickster depicted in Chinese folklore. A dancer, acrobat and superhero with magical powers he parodied, interrupted and enhanced the presence of Madam Mao and the Red Guard.
• Portrait Artists – Who can usually be found in well travelled tourist locations were invited to set up shop in the gallery lobby. For $10-20 you could have original works of art.
• Masks – 1500 masks of iconic leaders were handed out, this included Chairman Mao, Queen Elizabeth II, Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Emily Carr’s monkey Woo, VAG director Kathleen Bartels, RCR curator Paul Wong.
• Orchid Tea Gallery – Featured Olivia Cheung and her team from Treasure Green Tea Company, in the splendor of the VAG rental and sales showroom they performed a master tea ceremony in an orchid setting provided by The Flower Factory surrounded by an exhibition of Paul Wong prints.
• Sedan Chair – Transgender performer Velvet Steele and her consort of bodybuilders brought to life the sedan chair on exhibit in the Forbidden City. Provocatively dressed, the sedan chair was carried through the grand atrium on the third floor of the gallery. They became the most popular subjects for selfies.
• ArtCart Rickshaw – Chinatown artist Ken Lum wheeled his street project onto the fourth floor. He created a context specific work that engaged the public to participate in the creation of individual tiles, when completed it formed a mural of a dragon.
• Emily Carr’s Palm Reader – This fictional figure, brought to life by Cindy Mochizuki, a professional fortune teller and artist gave intimate readings that were publicly televised via a closed circuit live audio/video feed. Carrying Woo (Emily Carr’s monkey) and dressed in a 1920’s costume she entranced the public with her accurate and intuitive perceptions.
• Physique of Consciousness – Performer Sandee Moore enacted the 200+ movements initiated by MadeIn Company as part of their mixed media installation Physique of Consciousness Museum from the Unscrolled exhibit. MadeIn Company was established in 2009 in Shanghai by Xu Zhen, it is a contemporary art creation company, focused on the production of creativity, and devoted to the research of contemporary culture’s infinite possibilities.
• Women – Featured in the fourth floor rooftop pavilion this video art program included two works by Montreal performance artist Chun Hua Catherine Dong, When I Was Born (2010) and I Cheated On My Husband (2012), and Sally (2008) by Paul Wong. These are contemporary feminist views debunking the subservient role of women in feudal China.
• Drunken Beauty – Beijing Opera star Catherine Li performs the classic song and dance of the lonely and frustrated concubine waiting for the emperor’s arrival in his chambers.
• Revolution Counter Revolution Art Bars – The heritage courtrooms in the VAG annex were transformed into a party zone. In the red court Chairman DJ Don Chow, flanked by a Paul Wong video installation that featured marching revolutionaries dictated the rhythm. In the yellow court DJ Kevin Shiu mixed music and VJ Leó Stefánsson using Hybridity Media app Generate to mash visuals that kept the counter revolutionaries happy dancing to a different ideology.
Revolution Counter Revolution was a five-hour event produced by MediaLab that was attended by over 3000 art lovers.
Cover photo Sedan Chair courtesy of Vancouver Art Gallery