Pacific Rim Triennial
The Orange County Museum of Art has given the public something to remember by neglecting their previous Biennial format (showing only California based artists) and creating an exhibition which collectively represents an example of what art means in the world today, showing more than thirty artists’ works from around the Pacific Rim. Dan Cameron is the curator-mastermind behind the show and mentions in the catalog the challenge of creating a show of this nature, especially as his goal was to exemplify the Pacific Rim’s many artists and their influence on each other. Eventually, the exhibition was narrowed down to represent fifteen countries; only a fragment compared to the vastness of the Rim itself. Pieces by the chosen artists are meant to push the boundaries of what art can be and how it serves to represent artists’ intentions, and the wide variety of mediums provides for a constantly changing atmosphere as the viewer walks throughout the many rooms of the museum. The show provides a glimpse into the ever-changing world of contemporary art through the eyes of several generations of contemporary Pacific Rim artists across international borders.
What makes the Triennial so special is not just the quantity of work shown, but the differences and comparisons exemplified by the exhibition’s wide variety of mediums and styles. One white-walled room may contain several paintings, a sculpture, and a video installation, which may have no relation to each other thematically but somehow still serve to keep the viewer engaged. There is no discrimination between mediums, and no boundaries to set them apart. Work calls to you with sound, moving pictures, or simply with color, and lures you into dark rooms or wide spaces to experience a sensation instigated by the artist’s intentions-whether it be the intensity of a light show on the ceiling aided by a loud special effects soundtrack, or a patch of light projected on the floor inviting you to step in and paint using your body. The show serves to spike the curiosity in museumgoers and encourage them to think about art in a different manner and create relationships between themselves and the art as well as the art to other works.
China’s Lin Tianmiao’s human and animal bones wrapped in brightly colored silk thread provide a wow-factor as the thread spills down onto the floor in a spectrum of piled color. As the bones become smaller in size the viewer loses track of whom they belong to and the line between person and beast is blurred. Tapestries reading angry anti-political slogans adorn a graphic wall, the bright colors and cartoonish embroideries pretty to see at first glance and disturbing to translate. Adan Vallecillo’s tiles made of flattened tires create a pattern of squares from wall to ceiling, instigating a newfound respect for the profound beauty of recycled materials. The naturally occurring marks defining the difference in each tile speak of the roads travelled and the influence of travel on art both physically and symbolically. The museum is a marketplace of art, and the artists are the vendors. Each piece speaks a different artistic language, but a language none the same. Much of the art provokes questioning of the authenticity of culture or the importance of identity.
One noteworthy piece is a fifteen minute long video by the Thai artist Araya Rasdjarmrearnsook, titled Two Planets: The Gleaners and the Thai Farmers which shows the backs of the heads of a group of Thai women who are discussing Jean-François Millet’s oil painting portraying three peasant women gleaning a wheat field. The women in the video ask each other about the significance of the subjects in the painting, wondering what these peasants are doing and why. The world of the museum and the rural collide in a humorous fashion as the women laugh at each other’s concepts of the painting and wonder what it means. It’s a fresh look into art from an unbiased perspective-by placing such a “fancy” piece of artwork completely out of the context of a museum or gallery, Rasdjarmrearnsook destroys the piece’s meaning and provides a clean slate for interpretation while also demonstrating that people of any culture or class can appreciate and talk about art. As an artist, she serves as the mediator between cultures and physically brings the art to people who haven’t previously seen it.
As Rasdjarmrearnsook becomes the mediator between farmers and art in rural Thailand, San Francisco’s Camille Utterback does the same for the viewer and the art in the museum space itself. Her pieces are activated by the interaction between a participant and digital media, and the movements of the viewer are translated into brush strokes and splatters on a wall projection. The software she created to put this into being is a testament to the link between technology and art today and further pushes the boundaries of what art is capable of by involving programming, a participant, and the artist themselves. It also begs the question of who the artist is. Are we the artist here due to our physical movements creating visible abstraction? Or is Utterback the artist because we are carrying out her vision? Her statement with this piece has something to do with provoking this question as well as her mediation between the participant and the projection.
When it boils down to it, Dan Cameron is also a mediator, but in a bigger sense. He chose each artist in the Triennial for a purpose and presented them to us; the viewers, to understand a small portion of what it means to be interdisciplinary, innovative, and insightful. The different views of the artists and their respective stylistic choices are all selling us something- a condensed world’s fair where we are presented with objects to look at, consider, and eventually buy into. We “ooh and ahh” at a colorful mural before reading the plaque it’s presented with to realize that there is more than what meets the eye. Stereotypes, preconceptions, and formalities are all shattered when the viewer is presented with a multi-medium show that both stuns with beauty and shocks with meaning.