Guan Xiao's (1983, Chongqing, China) work draws from the artist's own experiences on the internet and how our visual and auditory perceptions are redefined as we navigate this world of information and images. In contrast to the contemporary artistic trend known as "post-internet", Guan Xiao's work is not concerned with the web as a research object or as a medium for exposure: Xiao explores the web like an attentive consumer. Her extensive catalog of images, both still and in motion, is often the basis for her sculptures, videos, and installations, where the artist brings together and superposes diverse phenomena according to her own logic. For her, all elements in the world – living or non-living, imagined or real, natural or artificial, artisanal or industrial – are equivalent in their present state and state of becoming, and part of her work consists of demonstrating that parity.
In her videos, Xiao juxtaposes images found on the internet that are apparently unrelated, but which become inexplicably resonant with each other when placed side by side. They have no origin, history, or context and, in this sense, the artist's process demonstrates the fragmented reality that we live in, of exacerbated iconographic reproduction and circulation. In her sculptures, the artist also combines old and traditional objects with new technologies and other industrial items — such as motorcycles parts, engines, and lamps — even adding abstract elements that flirt with traditional Chinese iconography. This juxtaposition of apparently contradictory artifacts and elements is not aimed at a comparative reading of the genealogy of the objects involved. On the contrary, Xiao is interested in the existence and coexistence of these elements and by the meaning they can assume when associated in the present moment — she refutes the idea that things are fixed and cognizable. "The primordial past and the future that has yet to come, or may never come, are indistinguishable," says the artist, for whom the only reality we share is the present. Xiao's strange sculptural objects allude to alien or futuristic lifeforms, suggesting a kind of animism. Characterized by humor, exaggeration, and the absurd, these works seem to propose fictional alternatives to how to inhabit planet Earth in a context of huge influx of information and technology. The artist does not lead us to solid conclusions, but opens the possibility of doubt in terms of our perspectives on time, space, and identity.
Caroline A. Jones, Eyesight Alone: Clement Greenberg’s Modernism and the Bureaucratization of the Senses (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005).
Greenberg’s Modernism and the Bureaucratization of the Senses (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005).