Though I studied art history at university, I took sort of a slow drift into contemporary art working as a magazine editor for six years, running the arts & entertainment desk at that’s Shanghai (a magazine similar to Time Out). At the time, I was also writing for a number of art publications abroad Flash Art and Art Asia Pacific and managed to parlay this knowledge, however, meager, into a job running a contemporary art gallery. Looking back, this was really incredible experience given the amount of freedom I had to determine the gallery’s program and direction. The thematic shows I curated at OV would lay the foundations for other curatorial interests to come. For more info see the OV Gallery section of this website or www.ovgallery.org.
After leaving OV, I joined the curatorial team of the Shanghai Minsheng 21st Century Art Museum (now the Shanghai Minsheng Art Museum) which was one of the important contemporary art institutions in China at the time. I, along with our team, helped shepherd the museum towards its opening date in November 2014, in a new location in the former French Pavilion. Though the multi-party curatorial process may have been something more akin to a game of exquisite corpse than some kind of methodical process, given that the theme was 多重宇宙 or “parallel universes” this methodology was perhaps appropriate. Our team had some long nights, and more than a few challenges installing works on the nautilus-shaped spiral ramp which served as the museum’s exhibition hall, but we managed to stage a fairly interesting show around this amorphous concept.
Following that experience, I joined up with an exceptional artist and all-round top-notch human being, Li Xiaofei, a longtime friend and collaborator from my days at the gallery. I worked with Xiaofei on the Assembly Line Project Studio—a platform he had been working on for many years that we expanded to include several exhibitions, publications, and talks. ALPS took China’s industrialization, globalization, and migration as its core research question. It zeroed in on the specifics through Xiaofei’s practice which involved visits to over 250 factories around the world, but also looked at the philosophical implications of factory-like systems, the social cybernetics of various kinds of feedback loops, of coercion and control—work which seems pretty prescient given the current surveillance state.
During this time, I embarked on some other very rewarding curatorial projects—a series of exhibitions for the Goethe Institute under their East Asia regional program Data Dreams—which I took in the direction of posthumanism curating four exhibitions of artists from East Asia exploring topics such as digital identities, genetic engineering, the understanding of the consciousness of non-sentient objects (in the vein of OOO), the generative power of AI and looming specter of the Singularity. “Foreign Bodies” was a wild ride into the technological future (or dystopia depending upon how you look at it.)
Since returning to Canada, I’ve been focusing more on writing and research than exhibition-making per se. I think I didn’t want to be one of those “parachute curators” who sort of rocks up and throws together a show. Rather I wanted to understand the Canadian contemporary art ecology and update my understanding of the various local political issues before I dove headlong into the art world of Toronto.