Tales of Our Time at Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, through March 10, 2017

“The artists in this exhibition challenge the conventional understanding of place. The featured works—all of which are new commissions—portray often-overlooked cultural and historical narratives and examine concepts of geography and nation-state. Each addresses a specific location, such as an artist’s hometown, remote borderlands, or a group of uninhabited islands, as well as abstract ideas, such as territory, boundaries, or even utopia. China, too, is presented here, not only as a country but also as a notion that is open for questioning and reinvention.

The exhibition’s title riffs on Gushi xin bian (Old Tales Retold, 1936), the name of a book by modern Chinese literary giant Lu Xun in which he recasts ancient legends to critique society, reimagine history, and illuminate problems of his era. The artists in Tales of Our Time similarly call attention to the dynamic relationship between storytelling and history writing. Official histories are, in their eyes, full of fabrications, and storytelling provides a means to reconstruct the past and demystify the present. While some of the artists create characters and weave plots, others imbue their forms with narrative content by adapting metaphor and allegory. All of them, however, dispute the line between fiction and fact in order to make and unmake boundaries—those dividing communities, regions, nations, and continents, as well as those separating past and present, reality and dreams, and rationality and absurdity.

Tales of Our Time is not a monolithic report on the state of contemporary art in China, nor does it encapsulate any artistic trends or phenomena. Instead, it highlights each artist’s perspective. Their works are not just about China; they examine social and political tensions experienced worldwide, exploring themes such as individual and collective memory, migration and urbanization, cultural inclusion and exclusion, and the contradiction of technological development. The tales told in this exhibition consider our seemingly more connected, globalized world as one that is still filled with fractured land, fragmented history, and upended traditions. At the same time, they propose ways to imagine culture differently.” — Introductory Wall Text

Tales of Our Time exhibition on view November 4, 2016-March 10, 2017

Chia-En Jao (b. 1976, Taichung, Taiwan). Arms no. 31, 2016. Cast aluminum, textile patchwork, display case with fabric swatches, and paper handout with text. Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, The Robert H. N. Ho Family Foundation Collection © Chia-En Jao. Installation view photo: David Heald

chia_taxi

Chia-En Jao (b. 1976, Taichung, Taiwan). Taxi, 2016. Color UHD video, with sound. Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, The Robert H. N. Ho Family Foundation Collection © Chia-En Jao

kan_kulueer

Kan Xuan (b. 1972, Xuancheng, Anhui Province). Kū Lüè Er, 2016 (details). 13-channel color video installation, with sound, and sandstone and marble. Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, The Robert H. N. Ho Family Foundation Collection © Kan Xuan

sun_mythologicaltime

Sun Xun (b. 1980, Fuxin, Liaoning Province). Mythological Time, 2016 (details). Two-channel color HD animated video, with sound, and ink, graphite and acrylic on mulberry bark paper. Solomon R. Guggenheim

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Sun Xun (b. 1980, Fuxin, Liaoning Province). Mythological Time, 2016 (details). Two-channel color HD animated video, with sound, and ink, graphite and acrylic on mulberry bark paper. Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, The Robert H. N. Ho Family Foundation Collection © Sun Xun. Installation view photo: David Heald

Tales of Our Time exhibition on view November 4, 2016-March 10, 2017 Sun Yuan and Peng Yu Can't Help Myself, 2016 Modified Kuka mechanical arm machine, fitted with plastic and rubber shovel, and liquid dimensions variable Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York The Robert H. N. Ho Family Foundation Collection, 2016 2016.40

Sun Yuan (b. 1972, Beijing) & Peng Yu (b. 1974, Jiamusi, Heilongjiang Province). Can’t Help Myself, 2016. Industrial robot, stainless steel and rubber, cellulose ether in colored water, lighting grid with visual-recognition sensors, and acrylic wall with aluminum frame. Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, The Robert H. N. Ho Family Foundation Collection © Sun Yuan & Peng Yu. Installation view photo: David Heald

tsang_intheendistheword

Tsang Kin-Wah (b. 1976, Shantou, Guangdong Province). In The End Is The Word, 2016 (detail). Six-channel video installation, with sound. Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, The Robert H. N. Ho Family Foundation Collection © Tsang Kin-Wah

Tales of Our Time exhibition on view November 4, 2016-March 10, 2017

Tsang Kin-Wah (b. 1976, Shantou, Guangdong Province). In The End Is The Word, 2016 (detail). Six-channel video installation, with sound. Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, The Robert H. N. Ho Family Foundation Collection © Tsang Kin-Wah. Installation view photo: David Heald

Tales of Our Time exhibition on view November 4, 2016-March 10, 2017

Tsang Kin-Wah (b. 1976, Shantou, Guangdong Province). No(thing/Fact) Outside, 2016. Vinyl. Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, The Robert H. N. Ho Family Foundation Collection © Tsang Kin-Wah. Installation view photo: David Heald

Zhou Tao Film Stills

Zhou Tao (b. 1976, Changsha, Hunan Province). Land of the Throat, 2016. Installation with two-channel color HD video, with sound. Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, The Robert H. N. Ho Family Foundation Collection © Zhou Tao

Tales of Our Time exhibition on view November 4, 2016-March 10, 2017

Yangjiang Group (est. 2002, Yangjiang, Guangdong Province). Unwritten Rules Cannot Be Broken, 2016. Plants, pond, wooden bridge, wooden tables and stools, teaware and accessories, and tea gathering performance; blood pressure monitor and record chart; acrylic latex paint; and acrylic on foam © Yangjiang Group. Installation view photo: David Heald

Tales of Our Time exhibition on view November 4, 2016-March 10, 2017

Yangjiang Group (est. 2002, Yangjiang, Guangdong Province). Unwritten Rules Cannot Be Broken, 2016. Plants, pond, wooden bridge, wooden tables and stools, teaware and accessories, and tea gathering performance; blood pressure monitor and record chart; acrylic latex paint; and acrylic on foam © Yangjiang Group. Installation view photo: David Heald

Tales of Our Time is organized by Xiaoyu Weng, The Robert H. N. Ho Family Foundation Associate Curator of Chinese Art, and Hou Hanru, Consulting Curator, The Robert H. N. Ho Family Foundation Chinese Art Initiative. Kyung An, Assistant Curator, Asian Art, provided support.

Images courtesy Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum.