, with whom Medina has worked extensively in the past, describes the same phenomenon in his own terms. One of the key works at the biennial is his video Rehearsal I (1999–2004), in which a plucky Volkswagen Beetle tries again and again to summit a steep hill, each time losing oomph as it nears the top, rolling back down to where it began. Born in Belgium in 1959, Alÿs has long lived and worked in Mexico City, where Medina also works as the chief curator of the Museo Universitario Arte Contemporáneo. The biennial’s exhibition design is by another Mexican, architect
, and a large portion of the participating artists—plus one of the three co-curators, Colombian María Belén Sáez de Ibarra—are from Latin America.
Installation view of Lu Yang, Material World Knight, 2018. Courtesy of the Shanghai Biennale.
Installtion view of Voluspa Jarpa, Monumental, 2018. Courtesy of the Shanghai Biennale.
’s performance Nothing About Nothing (2018), which sees the same wall painted and re-painted white. And it’s there in a neighboring work by Chilean artist
entitled Monumental (2018), a giant mobile of state secrets printed on transparent plastic and shushed by printed black bars, which dangles down the museum’s central shaft, a skylight.
, a French art collective whose name comes from a stationery brand. Unlike the Cupertino brand’s actual logo, Claire Fontaine’s Evil / Good (2017) apple does not have a bite taken from it. The subtle shift suggests a prelapsarian path not taken by the first trillion-dollar public U.S. company, whose moral compromises include systematic tax dodges, dubious conditions at its suppliers’ Chinese factories, and censorship of its Chinese app store.
’s A Community Estate Project (2018), a model home equipped with gaudy faux-Versailles furniture and a TV tuned to a home shopping network. That corporate logos still hold any interest for artists and audiences in China—long after they were glibly used by Chinese painters cashing in on post-Mao economic reforms—is testament to the total triumph of consumerism in contemporary China.
Installation view of Claire Fontaine, Evil / Good, 2017. Courtesy of the Shanghai Biennale.
’s In Hemmed-in Ground (2018), a roughly 38-by-38-foot installation of collapsed cardboard boxes stacked in metal frames to spell out the phrases “one step forward, two steps back” and “two steps forward, one step back” in simplified Chinese—instead implicates online shoppers in our easy overconsumption.
and Heidrun Holzfeind’s multimedia installation The Auroville Project (2017). Auroville is a commune founded in Tamil Nadu, India, by French philosopher Mirra Alfassa in 1968, before the very idea of utopias had lost their luster. Five increasingly cynical decades later, this “retrotopia”—as Zygmunt Bauman describes our once-hoped-for paradises—persists, though its 2,500 residents are far fewer than the 50,000 originally planned for.
presents a more future-oriented alternative for visitors to contemplate as they exit the PSA. Her Material World Knight (2018) installation is an Akihabara-esque gaming arcade with aesthetics seemingly borrowed from Attack on Titan and Mars Attacks!. A collection of videos and video games pit humans against artifically intelligent Buddhist god-bots who remind us that “desire and wisdom can be straight parallel lines,” and complain that we have burdened them with sexy avatars that only appeal to humans’ animal instincts. The hope, Lu implies, is that maybe we can code away our irrationality.
Installation view of Enrique Ježik, In Hemmed-in Ground, 2018. Courtesy of the artist and Hilario Galguera Gallery, Mexico City.
, who live and work in San Juan, present a three-channel video of the Puerto Rican jungle surrounding Arecibo Observatory (the world’s largest radio telescope until it was eclipsed by China’s Heavenly Eye, in Guizhou’s Dawodang depression, in 2016). Via subtitles written by science-fiction author Ted Chiang, Alex, a Puerto Rican Amazon parrot, laments that humans’ “desire to make a connection is so strong that they’ve created an ear capable of hearing across the universe. But I and my fellow parrots are right here. Why aren’t they interested in listening to our voices? We’re a non-human species capable of communicating with them. Aren’t we exactly what humans are looking for?”