Byoungho Kim, Subodh Gupta: Jing’an International Sculpture Project
2012-10-16 Period    



Byoungho Kim_Seventy Two Silent Propagations_2012_Urethane coating on stainless steel, piezo, arduino_600x200x350cm



Subodh Gupta's Ray, 2012, a giant steel bucket with a cascade of smaller ones falling out of it


2012 Jing’an International Sculpture Project (JISP) Shanghai,China has chosen “Pride of City” as its theme, and for good reason: there are plenty of compelling stories about today’s cities, whose history, modernity, creativity and visual representations are a source of pride and inspiration for their inhabitants. People are attracted to cities by their dynamism, inhabiting urban space like bolts and nuts fitted to a machine. It is not the soulless architecture, but people – their expressions of frustration, happiness, anxiety or excitement towards modernity, and their physical presence – that have brought cities to life. As a unique public space, cities encourage, inspire and nurture creativity in people, and create fashion and consumerism. This is exactly where people’s urban dreams stem from, and where the charm of the city lies.

In fact, “Pride of City” can be interpreted as the “wisdom of the city”, in the sense that the word “pride” is more or less related to prominence, wisdom and enlightenment. This theme not only encapsulates the memory, dream, inspiration and love of every city dweller, as well as the imagination and creativity of artists who offer visual representation of their philosophical thoughts on cities, but also highlights the warmth of human touch in the urban context. With the subjects of “human and cities”, “mundaneness and transcendence”, and “dreams and creations”, this exhibition addresses urban experience, aesthetics of daily life, and human personality and creativity. Participating artists explore the theme of cities and related topics using their own unique, idiosyncratic sculpture languages. And for this reason, contemporary sculpture art has undoubtedly added new ingredients to Shanghai's urban culture.
18 artists from 10 countries – China, South Korea, Australia, Israel, India, Belgium, Colombia, Turkey, Singapore and Spain – have been invited to this exhibition, bringing with them 59 sculptures, which are divided into 23 groups. Compared with the last exhibition, this one puts more emphasis on international representativeness, inclusiveness and experimentalism. Due to space constraints, this article only provides a brief introduction to the major artists and their works, instead of a detailed review of all exhibits. 
Subodh Gupta, an internationally acclaimed contemporary artist from India, is best known for incorporating everyday objects into his creations. By making ordinary items artistic and aesthetic, he expresses his sympathy for the vulnerable and his reverence for traditional Indian values. In his work Ray., the artist captures the tensions between urban and rural, rich and poor, and traditional and modern, reflecting on the social breakdown that India has experienced on its quest for modernization against the backdrop of globalization. 
Wim Delvoye is a Belgian artist known for his inventive projects. His recent works feature extravagant ornamentation, which commands almost all of the audience’s visual attention. These works may have been inspired by Baroque art or music, but he transforms them into an art form that straddles the boundary between architecture, tools, churches and sculpture. He even converts ordinary everyday objects into purely decorative tools, giving them different values. With a conviction that any ornate decoration is pointless, he just uses them as a means of unraveling the secrets of human nature, yet the artist manages to make these “meaningless” objects delightfully aesthetic. 
Unlike Wim Delvoye, the South Korean artist Kim Byoung-Ho uses modern electronic technology to produce sculptures and installations equipped with acoustic devices. He skillfully incorporates integrated electronic components to produce vibration that has a frequency at which birds chirp. He has created an organ using sophisticated materials, which produces a sound that invites the audience to hum along. This installation is intended as a metaphor for how our social networks, as sustained by regulations, standards, conventions, connections and history, are affecting our lives. 
Ding Yi is one of China’s major abstract artists, and the first Chinese designer that has ever designed for the world’s leading fashion house Hermes. Through meticulous use of abstract lines and crosses, his signature means of expression, he produces streaked patterns that are seemingly alike but subtly different. For this exhibition, Ding translates his abstract paintings into a Tai Ch’i sculpture, combining the elements of naturalness, design, shapelessness, density, tightness, and scalability in one object; the sculpture blends perfectly with the flower beds of the park. 
Huang Zhiyang is a Taiwanese artist who focuses on the aesthetics of Chinese traditional painting, and the relationship between humanity and nature. He always brings together the concepts of abstraction, nature, meditation, people and environment, and correlates them in a poetic manner. In his works Poessessing Numerous Peaks, Huang deconstructs the complex microscopic world into simple and abstract symbols, which in turn reflect the unlimited vastness of the universe. 
Jaume Plensa is a Spanish sculptor and conceptual artist who stands out in the field of Contemporary Public Art with his unique style and language of art. He was made a Knight of the Order of Arts and Letters by the French Minister of Culture in 1993 and received a Marsh Award in 2009. His work The Heart of Trees is a masterpiece mixing together light effects and written characters. Clearly he has been inspired by oriental aesthetics, or more specifically, Chinese characters and the philosophical concept of Śūnyatā, or emptiness. In Plensa’s works, human sculptures hollow-carved in patterns of Chinese characters sit by several trees in crossed legs and immersed in meditation. By presenting an artificial concept of space, he tends to evoke people’s thoughts on the state of existence. It’s not hard to see that he has created a new style of poetics building on oriental aesthetics. 
Kumari Nahappan, a significant conceptual artist based in Singapore, is the first woman to have been awarded the Ksatria Seni Award by Museum Rudana, Indonesia and is internationally acclaimed. Born in Malaysia, Nahappan often seeks inspiration from red chillis and is deeply rooted in Indian philosophy. Her work Happy Together is another artistic description of chillis. While generally realistic, it is mingled with factors of post-modernism, such as magnification, everyday qualities, pop art and vibrant colors, adding to its aesthetic charm.
In fact, “Pride of City” is a further development of the 2010 Expo Jing’An International Sculpture Project “City Fantasy”. Dedicated to improving regional/ community culture, it contributes to making Shanghai a better platform for international cultural exchange. JISP has set an example of how to create a happy, enjoyable and brilliant public art experience. In this project, artists delineate their unique interpretation of the theme “Pride of City”, and the public is given easy access to enjoy public art and encouraged to engage more with it. Thus, the public’s aesthetic sense is further enhanced and the city’s soft power strengthened.