It’s not often that a writer gets to do something with contemporary visual art. But I had the good luck of being invited to participate as part of an exhibition by the amazing Singaporean artist Heman Chong for the Rockbund Art Museum in Shanghai.
Chong’s exhibition, called “Ifs, And, or Buts,” “investigates spaces between text and images, producing new ways of relating the two through 7 new works commissioned specifically by Rockbund Art Museum.”
The show has 7 new works, ranging from video installation to light show to monumental sculpture to performance art. It’s a thought-provoking and multi-layered collection of pieces in conversation with each other and with contemporary culture.
The piece that Chong asked me to prepare is called “Legal Bookshop,” for which I was responsible for curating the books that would be sold in a temporary bookshop to help readers navigate the Chinese legal system. I was asked to interpret the concept of “law” in a non-literal manner.
So, I thought about laws (both man-made and natural), code (moral, ethical, and even machine-based), rules (including the trivial, such as games, and the non-trivial, such as government regulations), customs, principles, and so on. I made liberal use of puns and free association. The resulting selection is only tangentially related to “the legal system” of China, as that term is commonly understood, and yet, I think, may provide more helpful guidance than books literally about laws in China.
I also wrote a new story just for the exhibition (it’s in the catalog) which explores the ideas and metaphors behind “books” and “law.”
The exhibition will be running from Jan 23, 2016 through May 3, 2016. If you’re in Shanghai and get a chance to check it out, I’d love to hear your thoughts.