In addition to providing a view, a museum building itself is often an urban landmark, which creates a complex interaction between observers and observed. Spectacles overlap and blur, creating the halo of museum architecture. In a modern society desperate to consume spectacles, the museum has increasingly become an object of worship rather than a place for worshipping. Partly for this reason, the opportunity to design a museum building is an honor for many architects.
Not to be outdone by the breakneck urban development in the country, Chinese museums have in recent years been constructed at an unbelievable pace. Some of these buildings are masterpieces. However, it is precisely the borderline insanity in scale and volume that leave observers unable to express the subject using traditional architecture exhibition methods. A fraction of the picture can be attempted with models, photographs and diagrams, but these tools cannot be used for a full-ranging discussion of the larger context of these issues. Construction and use of museums, public and private space, exhibiting and observation, the unusual and the everyday…
These exhibitions attempt to demonstrate rather than duplicate. Twelve architects and artists inspired by the ‘museum’ topic express their perspective on museum architecture through a range of media.
Zhang Ming and Zhang Zi's large scale model installation directly addresses the theme of the exhibition with two completely different types of museum: the “museum of largeness” and the “museum of smallness” are placed in a tense juxtaposition that inspires reflection on the sacredness of one and skepticism about the love affair with personal expression of the other.
Two of the pieces on display investigate the venue itself - the Shanghai Power Station of Art. Zhang Jiajing continually breaks down the museum, in order to strip it of its 'architectural pride'. Bu Bing and Chai Tao's video collection installation interlaces multiple perspectives from within and outside the museum, including handheld and CCTV footage in an attempt to invert the relationship between observers and observed in the museum.
Feng Lu and Liu Yuyang present a large number of models of “unbuilt museums” researched online. The display is both at the exhibition site and online, with the discussions on Weibo and other network media being an integral part of the work.
Urbanus's Contemporary Art Center and Liu Jiakun are both exhibiting work at this exhibition. Urbanus has reworked the “Comprehensive Public Space” which they have been exploring in the past years, while Liu is displaying two of his design works via videos: the Luyeyuan Stone Sculpture Museum (2002), and the Hu Huishan Memorial House (2009).
The exhibit by Jeffery Johnson's China Megacities Lab team from Columbia Universityshowcases the astonishing scale and diversity of museums being constructed in China. The piece ties into their current research, calmly seeking new trends or models among the frenetic pace of construction that might mark a paradigm shift in museum development.
The Museum of Unknown is a group of artists who attempt to reflect critically on the conventional institution of the museum. Their work discusses the possibility of bringing museum artwork into the private sphere.
Yuan Feng's “Museum of the Future” uses holograms to showcase the possibilities of the 4th dimension, applying the latest holographic technology. Yu Ting uses mirrors to create a set of distorted images, revealing the inevitable personal prejudices that exist when differentiating the “right view” from the “deviant view”.
As a professional photographer, Shen Zhonghai has used the camera to record the entire construction process of the Rockbund Museum. Shen has also captured a vivid portrait of the dynamic behavior of people both inside and outside the museum. Shen sees the latter as equally important as the museum: these different layers of experience together constitute the real, conflicted history of the contemporary city.
Atelier Z+ and ATELIER ARCHMIXING’s work AVIATION INFLUENZA is part of the AVIATION INFLUENZA project proposed by ARCH!CHOKE. It is the only exhibit to be placed outside the main exhibition site. The interrelationship between museums and public space is the highlight of the work.
The primary purpose of the exhibition is to stimulate deeper reflection and criticism of new museum architecture rather than repeating superficial complaints about the speed or scale or construction. The wave of construction in China today presents both a challenge and an opportunity for architects. It is also a chance for deeper reflection on the part of architects, academics and the wider public. We hope that the grand spectacle of this exhibition will provide a vantage point onto what we once had and what we will gain. This will be the greatest achievement of the event.