The exhibition of work by Paul Chan (b. 1973 in Hong Kong) at Schaulager
is the largest and most comprehensive to date. Chan is one of the most versatile and unpredictable artists of his generation and certainly one of the most original voices in contemporary art today. His large-format digital projections The 7 Lights in 2007 at London' s Serpentine Gallery and at the New Museum in New York in 2008, as well as his installations at the Venice Biennale in 2009 and documenta 13 in 2012 enjoyed great international acclaim.
Chan's interests range from current political and social issues to the timeless themes of history, literature, and philosophy. Inimitably playful and uninhibited, he addresses these in his art. A typical exponent of his generation, the artist, based in New York, passionately exploits the potential of the Web and its information overkill, creating links and reshaping the Net with unbridled energy. He is a video artist, a draftsman, and a painter, and he is equally versed as a writer and university lecturer. He has published widely on contemporary art, art theory, and issues of general cultural interest. He founded his own publishing company Badlands Unlimited for e-books, limited edition paper books and artist works in 2010.
The Schaulager invitation has given Paul Chan the opportunity to look back at his work and move forward. He has been living in Basel since January, working on the installation of his exhibition and teaching at Basel University and the Academy of Art and Design (Hochschule für Gestaltung und Kunst).
Chan combines existing and new works in an architecture that has been specifically designed for the exhibition, creating an artfully conceived and astonishing overall production. Sculptures, drawings, installations alongside light projections, animated pieces, invented fonts and site-specific interventions cast new light on the wealth and complexity of these fascinating works.
In addition to early video installations, such as My birds... trash
the future, 2004, rarely exhibited works on paper, sculptures, and works from the series The 7 Lights also are on view. Following a limited selection at documenta 13, the Schaulager exhibition includes the first-ever presentation of all 1005 painted book covers that constitute Volumes, 2012. New works created especially for this exhibition play an important role. The Arguments, a complex that includes large-scale installations of electrical cords, critically reference the ubiquitous digital wiring of today's world in the twenty-first century. In contrast the Non-projections, sculptural works presented here for the first time, draw attention to the daily flood of images we are exposed to. The projectors are obviously running, but as the title of these works already gives away, no images are projected from them to the world outside.
Instead viewers are invited to look into the lens of the machines to find traces of an elusive image.
The exhibition is conceived in terms of axes: heaven and earth, the here and the hereafter, good and evil, the dream of an alternative world and the reality of ours. On the ground floor, visitors encounter and explore the byways of positive and negative utopias; on the floor below they are confronted with relentlessly bald scenarios of reality. Here, in addition to new works, the famous video piece Sade for Sades Sake, 2009, first shown at the Venice Biennale that same year, is also on view.