“九层塔：空间与视觉的魔术” 是一次跨界行动，是中国从未有过的展览方向和形式。它将邀请9位／组艺术家提供作品，作为展览的基础素材，同时邀请9位建筑师，9位设计师，组成九个临时团队。艺术家、建筑师、设计师三方联名合作，没有 “主次” 和 “中心”，只是分工与协作，最终形成9个全新类型的展览。
谢南星的表达方式和传统的 “肖像画” 截然不同，他不通过记录人的外表与样貌，去映射人的内心、道德品质和精神状态，而是在作品中将 “肖像” 隐退、变身，引用对象的社会身份或个人经历，描绘他们的一张名片，一些归纳的文字，例如对象常说的关键词、讲述的故事，一段特有的轶事，或是将对象卡通化，与童话里的人物映照。于是，肖像成为一张张未被揭开的面具，也是等待被另一种解读赋予灵光的浮影。曾经的 “真实” 在这里成了 “表象”。然而，在一张张的面具背后，并无真身，也绝无本质，在一幕幕幻影之后，也不见谜底。艺术给出的观看、记载和理解世界的方式，也从未确定。
建筑师何健翔的空间搭建，也从传统建筑的重构开始。城堡的建造和肖像画一样，都是西方追求永恒存在的象征。城堡以强烈、坚实的形象锚固于大地，厚重的外表将内部掩藏，以至于我们印象中城堡仅有外部的形象，而忽略了内部的存在。于是，在这座全新的 “透明城堡” 中，内部变得透明可见，坚硬的外表被柔软的材料悬置，十字形平面的 “内城堡” 上下错综。展厅被分成四个院落，进出也各不相同。外围被一圈方形回廊连接和环绕，观者漫步其中，难分内外，仿佛远观与游历，围赏和望穿同时存在。
设计师马仕睿的海报异曲同工，“表象” 与 “本质” 在这里变得含混不清。一副没有重点、平淡无聊的画面，只有信息的简单铺陈。这种表达方式，无象征、无隐喻，写实但又抽象，有限又是全部，接近本质，却又只是表象。
在网红打卡盛行的时代，三位的创作显得既不 “好看”，也不通俗，甚至 “晦涩”。神秘、多义的 “面具与浮影”，让艺术、建筑、设计的解读，不再一目了然、不证自明。它们犹如一座剧场，充满沉思、质疑和迷幻的魅力，人们需要长时间的观看、思考、追问，才能进入更复杂的空间和思维层次。虽然，有时一无所获，有时后知后觉。在若干天后，灵光一闪，魔方与城堡的转动，由此打开。
Nine-Tiered Pagoda: Spatial and Visual Magic, as a cross-disciplinary event, represents an unprecedented direction and form of exhibition in China. Nine (groups of) artists will provide their works as the basis material for the exhibition. Besides, nine architects and nine designers will also join to form nine temporary teams, hence the cooperation among artists, architects and designers. There is no ‘priority’ or ‘center’ in the exhibition, only division of labor and collaboration, presenting nine individual exhibitions of a brand-new type.
As the core determinant for the exhibition, space and design are also a kind of re-creation of the exhibition and the work; They determine the content and how the audience see the exhibition, as well as the sequence and pace. Space and design, no longer in the service of the exhibition, provide an independent and autonomous experience for the audience, granting the exhibition a myriad of variables and possibilities.
There has always been a lack of quality cross-disciplinary exhibitions, which are neither a fast food product preached by celebrities and online influencers nor a highbrow art confined to professional barriers. The cross-disciplinary advocated by Nine-Tiered Pagoda creates a nexus joining art, architecture and design together with a new cross-discipline, which reflects the practical needs and collaboration of the three professions, while it also retains the expertise and strengths of each with a proper division of labor.
As an ancient Chinese architecture, ‘Pagoda’ has a special structure, with each tier telling a different story. These stories, spaces, and designs are closely intertwined with each other into a superimposed whole, formulating the external image and spiritual core of the exhibition.
Nine-Tiered Pagoda: Spatial and Visual Magic, launched by curator Cui Cancan and architect Liu Xiaodu in 2020, is a hands-on project that mixes ideas, methodologies and tools. It’s not only a workshop for cross-disciplinary art, but also a platform for artists, architects and designers to cooperate and expand their development realms together.
The advent of Nine-Tiered Pagoda represents the ambition to create an entirely new field, with an aim to invent a new way of collaboration and to create a fresh exhibition concept that can reshape the perceptual experience of our times.
“Mask and Shadow” Solo Exhibition of Xie Nanxing
As the seventh project of “Nine-Tiered Pagoda”, “Mask and Shadow” resembles a transparent castle, or a ghosting phantom of the opera, attracting us to pick up the key of creation and interpretation to solve the puzzle between vision and meaning, form and content, representation and essence in art, architecture, and design. The exhibition is based on a series of portraits drawn by Xie Nanxing, with the architect He Jianxiang creating the space and the graphic designer Ma Shirui in charge of posters and other visual systems.
Xie Nanxing’s way of expression is completely different from traditional “portraits” as he reflects one’s emotions, morality or mental states with their social identity or personal experience rather than their appearance or look. He transforms the “portrait” and reduces it to a business card or some kind of generalized texts, such as some keywords, a story told or a peculiar anecdote related to the subject. Sometimes he will also design a cartoon image to mirror a certain figure in the fairy tale. As a result, his portraits become masks staying unrevealed, as well as shadow waiting to be interpreted. What used to be the “reality” has become “representation” in his brushwork. However, there’s no essence or reality behind the masks, neither is there any answers to the mystery behind those ghosting images. The way art provides for observing, recording and understanding the world has never been determined.
Architect He Jianxiang starts from the reconstruction of traditional buildings to design the space for the exhibition. Just like portraits, castles are another symbol for eternity in the Western ideology. Firm and solid, they take root in the ground with the interior meticulously hidden behind the monolithic walls, so that we are impressed more often by the exterior look of the grand architecture. In the brand-new “Castel Transparent”, the interior becomes visible with the originally hard exterior wrapped and suspended by soft materials. The “inner castle” is serving as an intricate cross-shaped passage for visitors to travel through. The exhibition hall is therefore divided into four split rooms with different entrances and exits, surrounded by a square winding corridor. It is difficult for viewers to distinguish the interior from the exterior, as if they are traveling through and gazing out over the “castle”, while also looking around at it from a distance at the same time.
The line between representation and reality is also blurred in the poster created by the designer Ma Shirui, with an unfocused, dull and boring picture, containing simple presentation of information. His way of expression has no symbols or metaphors. It’s realistic but abstract, finite but all involved, close to the essence, but only serves as a representation.
Against the craze for photo sharing on social media, the creations of the aforementioned three artists are neither “good-looking”, nor popular, but rather appear to be “obscure”. The mysterious and ambiguous “Mask and Shadow” makes the interpretation of art, architecture, and design no longer self-explanatory or self-evident. It forms a theater full of contemplation, doubts, and hallucinating charm. People need to observe, think, and question for a long time before accessing a more complex space and thoughts implicitly offered by the exhibition. Sometimes you’ll get nothing on the spot though, the puzzle of the “castle” may finally unfold in an eureka moment after a few days.
It reminds me of “The Castle”, a novel written by Franz Kafka where the protagonist K inadvertently opened a new dimension of narrative after failing to enter the castle close at hand. The repetitive storyline forms an infinite cycle, with the ending and beginning being equally eloquent and thought-provoking.
Cui Cancan, Curator