A Forensic Play
Act II: At the Threshold of Visibility
Curated by Miao Zijin
Tant Zhong describes her project At the Threshold of Visibility as the presentation of scenes and situations. She reviewed and selected pictures taken during her travels and residencies in North Korea, Iran, and India over the last few years. She printed the pictures, then arranged them on the surface of a wooden partition made for the exhibition space. For the majority of viewers who have not been to these countries, the images produced by foreign cultures have a certain physical and conceptual distance. We may be able to catch a glimpse of life in another place through scenes from classic movies, such as Close-Up, in which a young man goes on trial for impersonating an Iranian film director and reconciles with the family he deceived after his release, or Separation, in which an Iranian couple’s emigration plans are disrupted by family and happenstance. Frames that represent barriers and restrictions occasionally appear in home interiors, in work and social spaces, and at national borders. Tant Zhong has designed four sets of seats for the exhibition that attempt to simulate the barriers visitors experience as they view or discuss the works. These kinds of seats are most often seen in cramped cafe or diner spaces. Customers who do not know one another have their backs to a semi-transparent or solid partition. Here, public spaces and private realms meet.
Physical barriers protect tourists from closely observing or eavesdropping strangers. When we travel, glimpses of other people through a car window or camera viewfinder are slightly nerve-wracking and somehow unscrupulous. Pictures obtained in this way are ambiguous, uneasy, foreign, and a bit biased. In the installation that the artist has constructed, the act of revisiting the pictures is like a guerrilla attack or playing hide-and-seek. When visitors choose to sit in one of these seats, they place themselves in the liminal state between visible and invisible. Those who walk all the way around the outside of the exhibition space can take a bodily measure of the installation and thereby assemble a visual map. The fact that viewers can choose a random order in which to view the pictures, thereby generating a series, implies that the pictures are no longer physical materials used to prove a precise point; they represent a photographic journey that gives us a chance to suspend our habit of identifying differences in one another. The pictures that Tant Zhong has renamed and paired together seem repetitive, remaining both real and speculative. At the Threshold of Visibility transforms our reality—in which information cannot be smoothly communicated—into an aesthetic structure, pointing out the interrupted, limited conversations that take place in everyday life.
By Miao Zijin
Artist: TANT ZHONG
Born in 1990 and currently lives and works in Shanghai.
Her works are hard to classify, fluctuating between raw formalism and comic whimsy. Most of her works are simple, elegant, a bit funny, and perhaps even absurd. Mass-produced objects are elevated into sensual arrangements that shelter unexpected jokes. The natural attributes of materials collide with each other in her works, acting on different media to create a harmonious balance. Often her works lack definitive boundaries, spilling into each other and absorbing space, leaking their worldview out of the gallery and into the wider world. Implicit in the works is a challenge that all things can be seen formally and elevated to the realm of aesthetics, never forgetting the absurdity of such a task.
Curator: MIAO ZIJIN
In 2013, she graduated with BA in Creative Advertising Strategy (First Class Honours), London College of Communication, University of the Arts London. In 2015, she graduated from MFA Curating (Merit), Goldsmiths, University of London. Miao Zijin worked at LEAP magazine as an editor in 2017. From 2019 to 2021, she worked at Taikang Space as a researcher.
Her research interests include institutional critique, politics of identity, art production and circulation in the post-medium condition in relation to digital infrastructure, alternative spaces and self-organization. She attempts to build up a long-term collaborative relationship with the artists via a process-based research method. She treats curatorial practice as a site-specific testing ground which deals with power relations, especially the technology of governance and the politics of display.
Her recent curatorial projects include: Boomerang—The Ninth OCAT Biennale (2021 upcoming, OCAT Shenzhen, co-curator), Platforms Function in-between Celebration and Chaos (2021, Design Society, Curating Design Plan, shortlisted curator), The Revolution Will Be Funded (2020-21, Taikang Space), The Comfort Zone at A Distance (2018-19, Taikang Space), Shared Narrative(s) (2018, realized in four chapters, ShanghART S-Space), Paul McCarthy’s Lounge (M WOODS, co-curator), I Do (Not) Want To Be Part Of Your Celebration (2017, Qiao Space & TANK Shanghai Project Space), Toward the Emergence of Resistance: Make It Wrong, Till It’s Right (2016-17, Taikang Space), Welcome (2016, White Space).
Tant Zhong, What a Long Way It Is, 2021. Giclée print, 75cm x 100cm. Courtesy of the artist.
Tant Zhong, Timid and Suspicious, 2021. Giclée print, 75cm x 100cm. Courtesy of the artist.
Tant Zhong, The Details of Housekeeping, 2021. Giclée print, 75cm x 100cm. Courtesy of the artist.