So, Xu Zhen last night at Ikon. I got it slightly wrong yesterday when I said Xu Zhen was impersonating a fictional group of Middle Eastern artists. Actually, Madeln, which is an artists' collective, based in Shanghai and founded by Xu Zhen (but with no other known members...) are impersonating a fictional group of Middle Eastern artists.
  I thought the idea of impersonating a group of Middle Eastern artists would be an interesting way to explore the political, economic and religious assumptions that outsiders make when assessing the region as a whole. I really enjoyed Keep Me Calmed (Down), 2009, a carpet of rubble that undulates and rolls as if it was breathing (achieved with a lot of bricks, a very strong water bed and a motor, apparently). The way it moved was like the stomach churning hallucinations of food poisoning or a mushroom trip.
  I wasn't so sure about the various wall hangings; quilted pieces called Collages (2009). They are satirical and cartoonish, but totally chaotic. The way they play with the conventions of newspaper cartoons remind me of the 'physical cartoons' from The Day Today, or maybe the editorial cartoons from The Onion.

But I was a little unsure if they are meant to be a satire on bad satire, or whether they are just bad satire?
  The other worrying thing about the exhibition as a whole is the idea of the fictional group being Middle Eastern, rather than having specific nationalities, either as a group, or as (pretend) individuals. It feels to me as though Xu Zhen (or Madeln, if they are more than just Xu Zhen) made the work and then applied the fictional context of the Middle Eastern artists as a safety mechanism; like an irony filter for the gallery visitors. It is though he/they are worried that gallery visitors might get upset at the crass depictions of suicide bombers, as though Middle Eastern artists have more of a right to be simplistic about their own situation.
  Another problem is with Ikon's website. They can't decide whether 'Madeln', or 'MadeIn' is the correct spelling of the artists' collective founded by Xu Zhen. 'MadeIn' references the idea of things being 'made in China', but the spellings seem to be interchangeable on the site.

But The Colour of Heaven, 2009, reproduced below, was beautiful, and the wine was cold. So apart from my easily understandable (and perhaps expected, or courted?) misgivings about the origins of the work, I was pretty happy.

The Colour of Heaven, 2009. Image via Ikon's site, courtesy of the artist and ShangART gallery, Shanghai.

Then I went back to the studios, cooked a microwavable cottage pie, and dropped it on the floor.


Yesterday I took many photos of many bad public sculptures. I saw Nick Griffin speaking at a meeting of the nationalist trade union, Solidarity (wouldn't want them representing me at a race discrimination tribunal...). I also got given a Scientology personality test. Most of the questions are designed to make you feel uneasy, positioning quite natural human responses as possible causes of unhappiness. Some of the questions have completely unwarranted quotation marks and some of them make no sense at all. Here are a few examples.

Q43: If you saw an article in a shop obviously mistakenly marked lower than its correct price, would you try to get it at that price?

Q162: Would you like to "start a new activity" in the area in which you live?

Q81: Are you usually undisturbed by "noises off" when you are trying to rest?


Today I'm going to put the film together, assemble the last of the sculptures and start clearing up the space for tomorrow's install.