What is On

‘Synchronicity’ sparks imagination on time



The exhibition poster outside of Pingshan Art Museum. Photos by Cao Zhen except otherwise stated

RIDING a Shanghai Forever bicycle, Roman Signer rushed into his trademark blue balloons stacked inside a wooden installation, popping a few of them on the way in. A few seconds later, he got off the bike and left everything quiet on the second floor of Pingshan Art Museum. 

That’s the 81-year-old Swiss artist’s “time sculpture” for the museum’s new exhibition “Synchronicity,” which opened Nov. 30.

Over the past four decades, Signer has catapulted chairs out of hotel windows, launched a table into the sea on four buckets, been towed down a road in a canoe and blown huge sheets of paper into the air, and he refers to all these as “action sculptures” or “time sculptures.”

He gives a humorous twist to daily objects, explores the relationships between sudden energy release and calmness, and investigates the transformation of materials through time.

Roman Signer is about to rush into his blue balloons at the opening of the exhibition Nov. 30. Photo courtesy of Pingshan Art Museum

Visitors wait for Roman Signer's action at Pingshan Art Museum. 

The blue balloons and the bike are now on display at Pingshan Art Museum.

The “Synchronicity” exhibition, which showcases works by Chinese and Swiss artists, is the first international contemporary art exhibition at Pingshan Art Museum since its operation team was officially formed in May.

“Pingshan is a positive, inclusive and promising district. We hope to spark visitors’ imagination at Pingshan Art Museum through the path of culture,” said Liu Xiaodu, director of the museum.

Li Zhenhua, curator of the exhibition, explained that the exhibition title “Synchronicity” comes from a concept by analytical psychologist Carl Jung: Events are meaningful coincidences if they occur with no causal relationship yet seem to be meaningfully related.

Li said that he had invited some of the artists of the exhibition for talks on media art in 2011 in China and gradually found some similarities among them: They use new media but also question it and continuously explore what is influencing their creations. For the Shenzhen exhibition, their works here are more or less about time.

Visitors look at Qiu Zhijie's giant ink painting "Map." Photo courtesy of Pingshan Art Museum

Signer’s action at the exhibition opening attracted throngs of visitors occupying several stairs of the six-story Pingshan Art Museum. Beside his blue balloons and the bike is another site-specific work — Chinese artist Qiu Zhijie’s giant ink painting “Map” (2019) hung on the wall from the fifth floor down to the second floor. “Signer hopes to leave a moment here since he believes that any moment is part of a sculpture. And ‘Map’ echoes the energy concept in Signer’s works,” said Li.

Visitors walk past screens showing Roman Signer's video "Blue Ball."

Signer has four more artworks exhibited on the first floor. His 2012 action in Shanghai involving dropping a wooden ball filled with 200 kg of blue paint into a 50-meter-tall smokestack can be seen on the video “Blue Ball.” The plummeting and fragmenting sphere and paint splattering everywhere create a dazzling explosion of color.

A visitor takes photos of Hu Jieming"s "One Hundred Years in One Minute."

Visitors may be mesmerized by Hu Jieming’s “One Hundred Years in One Minute” (2010), a compelling video installation consisting of numerous small scenes arranged into a matrix. The scenes are excerpts from a wide spectrum of international art history archives and include footage such as Duchamp’s “Fountain” and the famous photo of a naked John Lennon beside Yoko Ono.

Wang Jianwei’s video “Living Elsewhere” (1997-1999) recorded several farmers who tried to survive in the outskirts of Chengdu. The 140-minute video, only 40 minutes of which is shown at the exhibition, expresses Wang’s focus on the relationship between humans and architecture and nature.

Lyu Shengzhong's "Study of Landscape."

Lyu Shengzhong conducted an experiment on traditional Chinese art by applying the element of books in “Study of Landscape” (2003). He wraps each book’s cover so that the spines of 1,000 books in a large bookshelf can be arranged to form a giant ancient Chinese landscape painting.

“Visitors are invited to read books here. When they insert the books back to the shelf, they unconsciously change the landscape on the painting, which represents the transition of a place or a culture through hundreds of years,” said Lyu.


Barbara Signer's "I Won't Let the Sun Go Down on You." 

Signer’s daughter Barbara’s light installation “I Won’t Let the Sun Go Down on You” (2016) presents a melancholic scene of a room soaked in the sunset, in an expression that beautiful moments won’t last forever. Another one of her works, “Capsule Coral” (2013), created with Michael Bodenmann, is a metaphor of a time capsule that stores memories. 

"Capsule Coral" created by Barbara Signer and Michael Bodenmann.

Young Chinese artist aaajiao’s works speak to issues around the Internet, with some projects focusing on data. His video “Column” (2017) modifies a computer system time — heading towards the future or tracing back in history — to reflect a state of conflict between the finite and the infinite. His “Water Measure — Petroleum” (2017) installation questions the value of data.

On the uppermost (sixth) floor of the museum, visitors will enter Roman Signer’s world of time again by watching a collection of 205 short videos of his past actions from 1975 to 1989, with no audio recorded. As your eyes surf along the walls, tension, surprise, visual impact and poetic moments come with the silent explosions, collisions and projections in the artist’s carefully planned but unpredictable experiments. 

A visitor watches Roman Signer's videos.

Dates: Until March 15, 2020

Hours: 9 a.m.-5 p.m., closed Mondays

Tickets: Free

Venue: Pingshan Art Museum, Huide Road, Pingshan District (坪山区汇德路坪山美术馆)

Transport: Take the high-speed rail from Futian Station or Shenzhen North Station to Pingshan Station and then take a taxi