X Museum | Because Everything Has to Start Somewhere

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Cover art by Melting Wang

Cover art by Melting Wang

It could be said the circumstances this year have not been very ideal for grand openings. Hell, the circumstances this year haven’t been agreeable for grand anything. While the duck and cover approach by arts institutions—often symptomatic of beleaguered finances and diminished resources—has been understandable, if not absolute, it’s also scarily the first potential step to obscurity. We’re experiencing grave loss; it’s estimated at least a third of museums in the U.S. won’t re-open. Our pre and post-Covid framework is being cemented day on day, and one wonders, once the dust finally settles, what supply and demand will actually mean, and who will have endeavored through, from then… until now. What’s been fascinating, perhaps, in the hour of Covid-19, despite it all, is artistry’s remix and repositioning, the requisite relinquishing of control, because we don’t have it.

And so: an opportunity for birth, in a moment when we find ourselves famished of inspiration and expression. Enter Beijing’s new X Museum—founded by Flaunt alum, Michael Xufu Huang, and Theresa Tse—an experimental new private, contemporary art institution with a panoramic sensibility, bolstered by an enthusiasm for youth art and education. Given its proximity to the pandemic’s early impact, X Museum faced all kinds of challenges, postponements, and delays in its efforts to open. Virtual X, an innovative digital experience platform that harnessed the momentum of the museum’s anticipated doors’ opening, was launched in the process, and will remain a programming accent here forward. 

In May, X Museum finally opened its doors—not to the international art set that was anticipated, but a veritable swath of Chinese art influence from all over the country. The apropos titled exhibition, “How Do We Begin?”, curated by Poppy Dongxue Wu— the first edition of the X Museum Triennial series—is an ambitious and exciting survey of contemporary consideration and flair. Flaunt hand-picked five artists from the group, one of whom—Melting Wang—created the cover of this issue, and the fascinating and hyper relevant conversations are featured below.


Wang Yuchen (Melting Wang)

Wang Yuchen’s work encompasses painting, design, moving images, and site-specific installation. With a primary focus on context-generating practice, Wang’s exhibits are often delivered collectively by juxtaposing interrelated pieces of work.

In 2015, the artist initiated a series of practices under the cyber avatar - meltingwang. Registering both the substantiality of life in the age of the Internet and the void between online and offline spaces, Wang’s works are not only doses of playful reflections, but also counterforces of such status, including the recurrent topics of regimen and evolution in his recent practice.

For “How Do We Begin?”, Wang exhibited “WEBhood JAM”, a context-specific installation that is composed of daily commodities, performance records, videos and sounds, aiming to create an integrated experience with the spirit of WEBhood (both sporty and Internet-aware). In contemporary daily life, we are in a state of constant switching, between physical bodies and our respective virtual avatars. "WEBhood JAM" originates from the inertia of thinking and transference generated during the switching between the Internet experience and real life, and such transference is also constrained by the physical attributes that humans cannot get rid of. The work extracts and presents the paradox and potential possibilities in the void between online and offline spaces.

Melting Wang. “WEBhood JAM” (2020). Multi-media installation. Variable dimensions. Courtesy of X Museum, Beijing.

Melting Wang. “WEBhood JAM” (2020). Multi-media installation. Variable dimensions. Courtesy of X Museum, Beijing.

How has the pandemic affected your artistic practice?

My practice was indeed once stagnated due to the pandemic. It is on the one hand the delay of logistics, but more importantly, the psychological effects that the pandemic has brought to me. I spent some time to rediscover the overall social context we are in, and to establish new routines. I believe these effects will be reflected in my future works.  

What aspects of your work would you describe as intimate or connected to intimacy?

If I look back at my past practices, I would say I have been getting inspirations from a lot of embodied experience and feelings from life, and I’ve also been using elements of everyday objects and scenes. These could all be the source of feelings of intimacy. To create a relaxing viewing atmosphere is quite important to me, because I believe a relaxing atmosphere is very helpful in terms of building connections.

When has science or the work of scientists compelled you to live with purpose? When has science or scientists made you feel defeatist and that life is not worth the effort?

I often am skeptical about the results of scientific research, especially nowadays when research outcomes can be updated or even overthrown at rapid speeds. It reminds me of reports on gene modification and rejuvenation technologies: these fields have been developing rapidly in recent years, but being spontaneous is influenced and manipulated by humanity and capital. For me, it is quite worrying if scientific research is being conducted with the purpose of gaining absolute control.

Your work often sees a performative extension. What’s something you feel is often misunderstood about the performative aspect of your work?

Having performative extension in my work is a way of communication that I try to build, communications that is based on human instincts, more like an expression of personal experience. I think my intention was to present a phenomenon. It is precisely because I can not understand these phenomenons thoroughly, so I attempt to investigate in other ways. Thus, I don’t think any reaction is misunderstanding, it is more like surprise for me, since it might just be the perspectives I was not able to or subjectively avoiding to see.

When do you feel the most unencumbered?

I might be the type of person who never completely let go of burdens. I haven’t really felt unencumbered before, and I do not yearn for absolute freedom either. 

What’s next?

I am preparing for a solo exhibition, and planning to apply for a residency project as well.

Yang Bodu

Yang Bodu (b. 1986), lives and works in Beijing. Yang's work is often described as an “art scene” that floats psychologically. Her practice renders contemporary art both stimulating and paradoxical, and transports viewers to an isolated environment where viewing an artwork is a private activity in an entirely public space. Yang received her BFA in 2008 from Tianjin Academy of Fine Arts, followed by her MFA from Pennsylvania Academy ofthe Fine Arts in 2012. In 2011, Yang was the recipient of the Justine Cretella Memorial Scholarship. In 2012, she won the Fellowship Trust Prize for her outstanding presentation in PAFA’s Annual Student Exhibition. 

For her debut at X Museum, Yang exhibited work from her “In the Museum” series, which has been endured by Yang for several years ever since 2011. This series of paintings create spaces within the frames, with carefully arranged settings and lightings, those seem to entice people’s consciousness to enter. Yang recognizes consciousness as an entity, thus she would generate a space for it to stay. Although an image is a flat surface, Yang regards the two-dimensional image as a 'formulated and constructed space, and maintains the exact photographic perspectives. In ’terms of the subject matter, it revolutionized from firstly emphasizing interior works and details of the museum to later focusing more on representing the general atmosphere, eventually keeping one unique spotlight only. 

Alain Robbe-Grillet has elaborated in his book Topology of a Phantom City (Topologie d'une cité fantôme): “I” was there in the abandoned prison-like city, staring at the existing buildings and historical sites those remain with the reappearance of those people, who have become phantoms of the city.

Yang Bodu. “In the Museum 2020 (In the Moonlight)” (2020). Acrylic on canvas. 79” x 63”. Courtesy of X Museum, Beijing.

Yang Bodu. “In the Museum 2020 (In the Moonlight)” (2020). Acrylic on canvas. 79” x 63”. Courtesy of X Museum, Beijing.

How has the pandemic affected your artistic practice?

Although my life on the surface has not changed much, the impacts on my mind and mentality have been quite prominent. I can clearly sense the demarcation of the pre-pandemic and post-pandemic worlds. In the face of a disaster that gradually spreads and submerges all, my stress response is stretched and lengthened because of it. This translates into the ‘instantaneity’ of my creation: when working, I now spend less time on deliberation, and often go ahead with an idea without too much thinking. I also no longer isolate myself from the external world, since quarantine and lockdown paradoxically make me feel more connected to the world than before.

Do you have a set routine when creating artworks, or is your process randomized? Please describe either way?

I remember answering this question in 16 Personalities Test. They appear to be two distinctive approaches, but actually for me they are integrated into one. I work under a fully random, almost intuitive condition in which my creation follows a routinised convention. In almost every single piece of my work there coexist both randomisation and routine, persistently co-present in the beginning, during the making and till the ending.

We’ve read that your artwork separates itself from the ‘art scene’. Do you feel that’s accurate? Is the ‘scene’ possible to escape? Is that a personal behavioral condition or is it more about your artistic output and subject matter?

We are all aware that the ‘art scene’ is a cage, aren’t we? It is where Statues Also Die (Les statues Meurent Aussi (1953)). It is possible to escape the ‘scene’ on the plane of religiosity: it is leaving in the ‘heart’[1] a separation ‘here and now’. However, on the plane of reality where there is nowhere to escape to, I can only choose to stare, to look it in the eye. It is in this stare that it becomes the scene, rather than the art scene.

Would you agree there is a voyeuristic quality about your work that is different from other painters? Is painting fundamentally voyeuristic? Why or why not?

My painting does not originate from voyeurism, but I get what you mean. Audience may experience a voyeuristic quality, and this is because they cannot stand being directly exposed to the center of the scene hence subject to the stare (almost all of my paintings project the stare at the scene). Voyeurism is more of a description of where the audience stand the security of that spot, which allows them to see all and in the meantime hide themselves in the dark—the peephole is ready made.

Painting in its essence is not voyeuristic. However, it can be seen with the voyeuristic gaze, projected from the peeping eye. I think it’s more accurate to say that we are voyeurs of the reality rather than of painting.

When do you feel the most confident?

When a painting is completed.

What’s next?

Know myself, know the world; hopefully I can bring benefits to more people.


Pete Jiadong 

Pete Jiadong Qiang (b. 1991), lives and works in London. The artist explores the spaces of pictorial, architectural, and game, as well as interstices between the three through a Maximalist way of inquiries. His work encompasses architectural drawings, paintings, moving images, photogrammetry, augmented reality (AR) drawings, virtual reality (VR) paintings, and games. 

Qiang’s practice often revolves around the idea of Gesamtkunstwerk (total work of art), which have become an idiosyncratic research methodology within his distinct aesthetic spectrum. Qiang’s work is often referred to as architectural Maximalism, oscillating between physical and virtual spaces in the contexts of ACG (Anime, Comic and Games) and fandom. 

Pete Jiadong Qiang is currently a PhD student in arts and computational technology at Goldsmiths, University of London, and was trained as an architect (RIBA Part 2) in Architectural Association School of Architecture.

For “How Do We Begin?”, Qiang exhibited “Queer Maximalism HyperBody” as a research ideal that tries to establish a new inventive methodology of Queer Maximalism: virtual space-making within the game engine by incorporating materials and images from ACG (Anime, Comic and Games), fandom communities and autoethnography. Both visually and acoustically, this new entanglement will try to redefine the concept of Portal within multiple HyperBodies intermediating between physical and virtual spaces.

HyperBodies include virtual Portal and physical Portal. HyperBody Virtual Portal is the virtual space of Queer Maximalism output in game engines, and is the corresponding physical space of Queer Maximalism output in real life.

Pete Jiadong Qiang. “HyperBody Physical Level 2 (Orange): Hyper-sexual Body: Androcur with 6 Cannibalistic Pink Yogurts by Sense Health Management Studio” (2019). Photographed by Burning Bear, Chongqing.

Pete Jiadong Qiang. “HyperBody Physical Level 2 (Orange): Hyper-sexual Body: Androcur with 6 Cannibalistic Pink Yogurts by Sense Health Management Studio” (2019). Photographed by Burning Bear, Chongqing.

How has the pandemic affected your artistic practice? 

The pandemic slowed my practice in virtual world by using game engine and VR devices. However, it offered me more time to think about the real-life environment, meat space and raw materiality. I am trying to spend more time to make more collaborative works intra-acting of physical and virtual spaces.

 Recent projects of yours has explored ideas of excess. What have you learned about excess in the process that you did not know before? Can you describe?

It is probably a redefinition of Maximalism by using the methods of modding, crossover and shipping in ACGN (Anime, Comic, Game and Novel) and fandom contexts. It is a spatial archive of auto-ethnography, a multi-fandom cosmos excess of culture, technology and affection.

When, if at any time, do you feel the most invincible?

I rather tend to feel the softness and “vulnerability” that continuously helping me play and work between academia and fandom. 

How has your relationship to being an artist changed in recent years?

One of my favourite architects Coop Himmelb(l)au said architecture must blaze. I am still trying on it. 

What to you, no matter what, will always be beautiful?

Maybe something marginal, raw, non finito, primitive, new, unheard, the unknown pleasures. 

What’s next?

Actually, I am reading the book “I Hate the Lake District” by Charlie Gere. I am dreaming and fantasizing a new HyperBody VR game level based on the Lake District, something alien, cult and horror.

Wang Xiaoqu

Wang Xiaoqu (b.1987), lives and works in Beijing. Objects and characters are often compressed and stretched in Wang Xiaoqu’s paintings. Here, objects and substances are accustomed to a sense of living, while people are recognized as some kind of emotional living organisms. The metaphysical deformation of the external shape squeezed out and extracted the profound sentiments of human nature. 

Wang Xiaoqu’s paintings consistently convey a touching warmth and nurture despite the differentiations of colors and figures. Wang received her BFA in oil painting from Sichuan Fine Arts Institute in 2009, and MFA in oil painting from Sichuan Fine Arts Institute in 2014.

For her X Museum debut, Wang’s composition of "Take care of you" is distributed intuitively and impromptu like a diary. When Wang first saw the video of a man carrying a gun sweeping the mosque, a feeling of conflicting violence came to the artist. By drawing a target initially, Wang then transcribed her feelings of violence in daily relationships along with it. The layout of this work also comes from the spheroid loop of a target, whereupon the artist formed an intertwined sealed ring with human bodies.

Wang Xiaoqu. “Take Care of You” (2019). Acrylic on canvas 39” x 39”. Courtesy of X Museum, Beijing.

Wang Xiaoqu. “Take Care of You” (2019). Acrylic on canvas 39” x 39”. Courtesy of X Museum, Beijing.

How has the pandemic affected your artistic practice?

Before the pandemic, I like to observe people, but I could only observe myself during this period, and maybe it is not a bad thing.

Describe the importance of humor or humorous exaggeration in your artworks?

Humor and fear coexist in my works, for me, humor is a variant of fear, which could bring me comfort. 

You have a history as a photographer. Photography is something that has perhaps been democratized or made more accessible in recent years by way of technology. What’s lost in the photographic process by these advances?

For me, the popularity of photography has made the images no longer delicate, and present a state of raw material. Now everyone can participate in photography, and it has stimulated the vitality of images. My last stage of creation is developed around this aspect.

What is something you feel is often misunderstood about you?

Some might think my works are about sarcasm, but in fact, I am just trying get into the realities that make myself uncomfortable. The distortions in images more likely come from my own embarrassment.

When do you feel the most inspired by the humans around you? How about the most depressed? 

I hope my works could have the ability to cross classes and ranks, I feel the same encouragement when one renovation worker expresses his favor of my work or when someone decides to collect my work. My inspirations also come from observing different kinds of people surround me.

I am kind of depressed for most of the time.

What’s next?

I am currently preparing my first solo exhibition.


Jes Fan 

Jes Fan (b. 1990), lives and works in New York. Fan received their BFA in glass from Rhode Island School of Design and works with glass, silicon, and resin to create sculptures that question binary conceptions of race, gender, and identity. 

Jes Fan’s studio practice is rooted in a haptic approach to understanding how identity is materialized, biologically and ontologically. They use substances such as hormones, silicone and soap—materials that are imbued with erotic and political signifiers to articulate concerns about diasporic politics, transgender identities, new materialism and post-humanism. 

Natural or artificial, visible or atomic, named or unnamed, Jes Fan is fascinated by fragments of the body and the identities it holds. Their works magnify the surreal realities of existing as a biological body in the age where the body is re-conceptualized in digital, informational and molecular terms.

Jes Fan. “Site of Cleavage” (2019). Installation. Ceramic, flocking, glass 26” x 22” x 2”. Courtesy the artist and Empty Gallery.

Jes Fan. “Site of Cleavage” (2019). Installation. Ceramic, flocking, glass 26” x 22” x 2”. Courtesy the artist and Empty Gallery.

How has the pandemic affected your artistic practice?

I stopped trying to be productive. I feel really privileged to say that this lockdown has been a much needed pause for me to question what it is that propels my practice and what is the role of an artist in these turbulent times. So I’ve decided to stop producing before I can answer these questions. Reading has been the only work I’ve been passionate about. Here’s what I’ve been reading—The Burnout Society, By Ung Chul Han, Purity and Danger by Mary Douglas, The Warmth of the Other Sun by Isabel Wilkinson, Darkwater: Voice from Within the Veil by W.E.B Du Bois and Mushroom at the End of the World by Anna Tsing.

You have an affinity to the integration of biology in your artworks. What is something you’ve learned in the process of experimenting with biology that has strongly influenced your worldview?

I’ve been ruminating a lot about the reluctance to wear face masks from Western countries in the beginning of the pandemic, and even until now. I think it has a lot to do with the fact that folks from developed countries, and especially predominantly the white folks from developed countries, are foreign to the idea that white bodies are contaminants. The idea of whiteness is so interlinked with purity, it’s impossible to believe that they can contaminate other beings, but only capable of being polluted upon… The parallels almost eerily mirrors the logic of Jim Crow laws.

 The pandemic has reminded us how intricately connected our cultural systems are, but also illuminated stark difference from place to place. Do you think this time will classify as a sort of trauma, and if so, how will that be expressed culturally? 

It will definitely be a form of trauma, sadly for a lot of people who have lost their loved ones, a really active trauma, and for some of us luckier ones, an unresolved trauma. There’s a lot of studies that demonstrates how trauma lodges in our body, down to our DNA. 

Do you have any recurring dreams? Please describe. If not, please describe a recurring dream you would like to have?

I dreamt that a bus was engaged in a protest, protecting the protester, but somehow to government managed to push the bus through a steamroller and everyone got shot through the sliver of metal of what’s left.

When do you feel the most confident in our human species?

An ability to find a way out.

What’s next?

Gracing stillness.