Art in the City: Politically Incorrect

03/29/2006 12:00 AM |

Cao Fei: Hip-Hop
Lombard-Freid Projects

A wildly talented young video artist from Guangzhou, China, Cao Fei is making a name for herself with her oddball satires of Chinese culture. Her lush Cosplayers video documents teenagers play-fighting in fanciful anime costumes, and her video Rabid Dogs, which was in the recent Armory Show, features Burberry-clad actors romping like dogs through a corporate office. This show at Lombard-Freid unveils a suite of three videos that see hip-hop colliding  with Asian culture. In Guangzhou, Fukuoka, and New York’s Chinatown, Fei cajoled local characters to dance uninhibitedly to hip-hop music, and most performed old-fashioned two-steps to the pounding beats. Her subjects are all endearingly out of sync with the music, which suggests, in the most entertaining way, the challenge of throwing together East and West, old and new. Fei, who has worked extensively in theater, constructed elaborate backdrops for each video; the Guangzhou piece is projected on hanging laundry, the Chinatown one on an overturned restaurant table, and the Fukuoka video between wall drawings of Japanese scenes. Her skills as a filmmaker aside, Fei provides a refreshing combination of humor and criticism in capturing China’s fast-changing role in global culture.

Participant, Inc.

Yes, that’s pronounced Ri-DYKE-ulous, and say it like you mean it! Definitely one of the angriest shows in a while, this joint curatorial effort by A.L. Steiner and Nicole Eisenman addresses the current status of lesbian culture in relation to the mainstream. The exhibit coincides with the release of a ‘zine of the same name, and both involve a multitude of artists, some of whom are not lesbians or even female, including Amy Sillman, Nicola Tyson, Chicks on Speed, Lisa Sanditz, and Miranda Lichtenstein. In the gallery space, the work all blurs together in a mass of fists sprouting from vaginas, smeared fake blood, and cutout photos of Shane from The L Word. Speaking of which, this raggedy, 90s-zine-style show is a refreshing change from that over-glamorized melodrama of lesbian life, and it’s a reminder that lesbianism does not have a comfortable place at mainstream culture’s table. However, this messy political expressionism, which the press release acknowledges as somewhat tongue-in-cheek, seems oddly retro and out of place today. Maybe contemporary art viewers have forgotten how to deal with angry minorities and we need to be reminded, or maybe the 21st century just requires a more sophisticated kind of political statement.