Yuken TeruyaMy Father’s Favorite Game (Flipping Earth and Sky), 2018.
Photo : Jiang Wenyi, courtesy of Power Station of Art
Curated by Cuauhtémoc Medina
November 11, 2018–March 10, 2019
Titled after E. E. Cummings’s experimental poetry from 1931, Proregress: Art in an Age of Historical Ambivalence is a critique of late capitalism and its failures. When Cummings coined the term “proregress”—a playful contraction of the words progress and regress—he was critiquing the promise of the industrial revolution at a time when Europe was on the cusp of another destructive war. Used nearly eighty years later in the context of the Shanghai Biennale, which coincided with the inaugural China International Import Expo (CIIE), Cuauhtémoc Medina’s proposal is timely and significant, but its shortcomings are numerous and the result largely disappointing.

Upon entering the imposing Power Station of Art, the visitor is greeted by three large installations: the first consists of two cars flipped over. This work by the Japanese artist Yuken Teruya is nothing if underwhelming. Nearby is a one-liner by the Spanish artist Fernando Sánchez Castillo: a large bronze sculpture of an eighteenth-century colonial figure, bent backward and turned into a swing on which visitors can sway. The third installation is a piece titled In Hemmed-in Ground (2018) by Enrique Ježik that the visitor rediscovers from the upper levels. It consists of a series of organized bundles of folded cardboard boxes that spell out Chinese characters, translating into “one step forward two steps back; two steps forward one step back.” This mirrors the Chinese title of the exhibition, “禹步” or Yubu, which is a Daoist dance conveying the coming and going of ideas, desires, and concepts1 1 - Curators’ statement by Cuauhtémoc Medina, María Belén Sáez de Ibarra, Yukie Kamiya, and Wang Weiwei, in the exhibition map for the 12th Shanghai Biennale, 3..

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