Tobias Rehberger
Blind and a little less

25.5.- 11.8. 2019
Opening: Saturday, May 25, 2019, 4 - 6.30pm




Tobias Rehberger
Blind a little less


Galerie Urs Meile is pleased to announce Blind and a little less, Tobias Rehberger’s second solo exhibition with the gallery after Das Kind muss raus presented in Beijing in 2014. Following a major solo exhibition devoted to Tobias Rehberger at the Rockbund Art Museum in Shanghai – If you don’t use your eyes to see, you will use them to cry (March 23 – May 26, 2019) – Blind and a little less draws on the Shanghai exhibition and delves further into existing themes and series of works. Divided into four parts, the exhibition includes a first section dedicated to the ongoing Vase Portrait series (1997-2019); a second section presenting brand new Planet lamps (2019) and some 16 lamps from the ongoing Infection series (2002-2019); a third section consisting in 4 pixelated large-scale tableaux (2019); and a final section presenting new LED works (2019) and some watercolors (2019). Across a large array of techniques and mediums, Tobias Rehberger once again blurs the lines between conceptual art, sculpture, interior design and architecture.

The vases and flowers in the first room form “portraits” of friends and acquaintances, representational but not literally. The vases are as diverse as the subjects, in shape and materials, including glass, ceramics, plastic, 3D-printed aluminum and felt. Like friends and social acquaintances, there are more permanent elements (the vases) and more ephemeral ones (the flowers – which eventually wilt and must be replaced, though always with the same type of flowers). The vases are portraits of nine artists represented by Galerie Urs Meile, who each completed their respective portrait by choosing the flowers to be displayed in it. Together the portraits form a matrix of histories, connections and influences. And the smell! The room is heady with the perfume of all the flowers, their pollen floating around and making people sneeze, embodying artistic crosspollination and allergic reactions.

On the left of the second space hangs a series of sun-like glass globes, whereas chandeliers of bands of colored Velcro tapes, squiggle lines of color, seem to float on the right side of the room, as if drawn freely in space. The Infection series, which began in 2002, starts as compositions made by Rehberger’s assistants. The artist then intervenes with his own artistic editing but without adding materials, in an approach of “controlled chance” and “deferred authorship”. There is a light touch to these chandeliers, sculptures that illuminate the space but also our understanding. Sculptures are traditionally thought of as matter in space, but these Infections transmit light, light from inside a drawing composed of swishes of color that curl through air, the two-dimensional colored bands transforming three dimensional space, relying on gravity and material tension to hold their curling forms. Of course, they are also held up by the very cables which powers the light – each element relies for existence upon the others.

The third space might be the one that best embodies the title of the exhibition. At first these colorful pixelated tableaux have a child-like charm as visitors discover the trick, as if something secret was revealed. These apparently abstract conglomerates of tiles start revealing themselves as viewers pause, fold their eyes, tilt their head and filter the image through the lens of a camera in order to decipher these encrypted images. The colored slump suddenly takes shape before the viewers’ eyes, as if they had become a little less blind. Six wall-mounted shelves are skillfully camouflaged in the work, an omnipresent technique in Rehberger’s practice, who enjoys blurring the limits between the visible and the invisible, ultimately questioning the very nature of art: is art something to be stared at directly, or rather something to be experienced in a much broader sense?

The fourth room of the exhibition features a series of watercolors as well as two new LED works, which imitate the likes of flickering advertising signs. However, the familiar commercial slogan is replaced here by two antagonist adages commonly attached to popular wisdom (as does the figure of Pinocchio): “everything/nothing happens for a reason”. As the lights flicker, one can alternatively read “very happea” and “not happea”. Immersed in colorful lights, the audience is encouraged to take a look at the commercial and moral values of society from a different perspective. The watercolors exhibited in this space also invite viewers to reflect on social conventions and interactions, as they all show cigarette butts crushed into half-emptied plates of food.

Tobias Rehberger (*1966 in Esslingen, Germany) lives and works in Frankfurt am Main, Germany and has been a professor of Fine Arts at the Frankfurt Städelschule since 2001. Selected solo exhibitions and projects include If you don’t use your eyes to see, you will use them to cry, Rockbund Art Museum, Shanghai, China (2019); Yourself is sometimes a place to call your own, The Museum of Contemporary Art, Busan, South Korea (2018); 24 Stops, Fondation Beyeler, Basel, Switzerland (2016); Home and Away and Outside, Schirn Kunsthalle, Frankfurt, Germany (2014); Tobias Rehberger: Wrap it up, MACRO Museum, Rome, Italy (2014); Dazzle Ship London, River Thames, London, United Kingdom (2012); When I See the Other Side of Heaven, It Is Just as Blue (commission), The Leeum Samsung Museum of Art, Seoul, South Korea (2012); Nest (commis- sion), Bloomberg SPACE, London, United Kingdom (2012); Tobias Rehberger, MAXXI, Rome, Italy (2010); The Chicken-and-Egg-No-Problem Wall-Painting, Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, Netherlands (2008); On Otto, Fondazione Prada, Milan, Italy (2007); Get a New Liver, Tate Liverpool, Liverpool, United Kingdom (2006); Private Matters, Whitechapel Gallery, London, United Kingdom (2004); Night Shift, Palais de Tokyo, Paris, France (2002) and The Sun from Above, Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, USA (2000). Rehberger was awarded a Golden Lion as best artist at the 2009 Biennale di Venezia.

The above text includes excerpts from an essay written by Christopher Moore on the exhibitions If you don’t use you eyes to see, you will use them to cry (Rockbund Art Museum, Shanghai) and Blind and a little less (Galerie Urs Meile, Beijing). Christopher Moore is an art historian, critic and cofounder of Ran Dian art magazine, where he held the position of publisher from 2010 to 2018. He then joined NRM, a new curatorial consultancy. Moore continues to contribute to Ran Dian and he is the editor of a monograph on Xu Zhen, published by Distanz in 2014.



Text by Christopher Moore 墨虎恺
Berlin, May 1, 2019

Galerie Urs Meile announces Tobias Rehberger’s second solo-show with Galerie Urs Meile in China, following 2014’s Das Kind muss raus 生 (The child must go out 生[born]). Drawing on his acclaimed exhibition this year at Shanghai’s Rockbund Art Museum (RAM), If you don’t use your eyes to see, you will use them to cry (March 23 – May 26, 2019), Rehberger’s Beijing show will include nine new works in the Vase Portrait series based on artists represented by the gallery, some 16 works from the Infection lamp series, as well as pixelated tableaux, and new Planet lamps that recall the Sun lamp at RAM.

One of the most influential artists of his generation, Rehberger (b. 1966, Esslingen am Neckar, Germany) has exhibited very widely, including in 2014 at his acclaimed Home and Away and Outside show at the Schirn Kunsthalle in Frankfurt, Germany. In 2009 Rehberger was awarded the Golden Lion for Best Artist in the Fair Mondi / Making Worlds exhibition, curated by Daniel Birnbaum at the 53rd Venice Biennale. Rehberger’s practice is often described as investigating the intersections between art, design and architecture. In truth, this only scratches the optical surface of how Rehberger engages with the (art) world.

In 2001 Rehberger was appointed to the faculty of Frankfurt’s Städelschule, the most influential art school in the world for the past 20 years, if not longer. Along with friends and colleagues such as Rirkrit Tiravanija (b.1961) and Douglas Gordon (b.1966), Rehberger developed an approach to thinking about and creating art that involved intellectual, experiential and social collaboration, subsequently described as ‘Relational Aesthetics’ by curator Nicolas Bourriaud, co-director with Jerôme Sans of the Palais de Tokyo at the time of its opening in 2002. Though much disputed, the term has stuck.1 The combination of a group of talented artists who were close friends, a leading teaching institution and the support of a major new public institution in the form of the Palais de Tokyo, along with the protean milieus of millennial Paris and Berlin, where so many of these artists lived, led to a transformation in how we think about art. Right in the vanguard was Tobias Rehberger.

Browsing images of Rehberger’s work, from buzzing optical bars (Cafeteria, 2009) and twin ceramic modular kitchens (Performance of two lonely objects that have a lot in common, 2014-2017) to his pixilated wall-transfers and ribbon lamps, it is easy to infer how Rehberger’s practice is informed by and exploits the intersections between art, design and architecture. Less obvious but equally important though is how people engage with the experience of his work, both physically and socially, including in its creation. Two of the best examples of this are exhibited at Galerie Urs Meile: the Vase Portrait and Infection series of works.

Since 1997 Rehberger has been making portraits of his friends comprising a vase designed by him and flowers chosen by the subject. The vases involve a variety of media, sometimes mixed, including ceramics, plastic, glass, wood, metal and paper. Each vase represents particular aspects of the subject. At the Rockbund exhibition, there are portraits of artist friends such as Douglas Gordon, Rirkrit Tiravanija, Jorge Pardo, and Sam Taylor-Wood. One vase looks like a giant cigarette stub, while another includes sheets of newspaper (working out the connections is part of the fun of them, though some remain stubbornly cryptic). For his Beijing show, Rehberger has portrayed a number of the gallery’s artists: Cao Yu, Hu Qingyan, Wang Xingwei, Yang Mushi, Shao Fan, Not Vital, Xie Nanxing, Mirko Baselgia and Ju Ting. The artists represent different connections with Rehberger himself (artists whom he has got to know over the last 20 years, including when visiting China) but also wider artistic and art historical or systemic connections, such as geographic (Beijing, Basel, Berlin), generational, and linguistic (some artists have a common language (German or English), others not (Wang Xingwei speaks only Chinese). All have shown internationally as part of the new art world economy and ecosystem, which include both biennales like Venice and art fairs like Basel. Each vase is unique and has naturally its own specific individuality. But they are also just vases, objects to collect, to own, to display, or rather they are objects that superficially perform this function. The crowded room at Rockbund, with dozens of vases grouped on plinths, deliberately carrying connotations of both memorial and commercial, is insistently ambiguous.

Yet as anyone can attest who has visited Rockbund, the room is deliriously aromatic. The invisible perfume from the flowers is also both overwhelming and untouchable. It cannot be collected or owned, only experienced or recalled. This is the other key aspect of the Vase Portrait series. Rehberger provides the basis for each portrait – the vase – but the subject, whether artist or friend, must complete/comple- ment the portrait by adding the flowers which represent both the subject and their relationship with the artist, whether roses, violets or strelitzia. Of course, they are ephemeral, as are people and their relation- ships. History is always a matter of becoming, of reinterpretation: a practice of retelling stories and recounting characters and their relationships to one another and different events, sometimes truly, sometimes falsely, intentionally or not. This is not mere relativism though, just a matter of perspective, because the Vase Portrait series demands we pay attention. As Rehberger knows, ‘real’ experience requires discipline and sincerity (but also laughter). If you want to understand, you have to commit to engage, but even then maybe you’ll still get it wrong.

Rehberger’s Infection series began in 2002. Each sculpture comprises a swirling, curling arrangement of strips of brightly colored Velcro tapes that hang from the ceiling supported by lighting cords powering light bulbs. Each Infection is first composed by other people, such as Rehberger’s students or studio assistants. It is a type of game. Rehberger then intervenes in the works, adjusting, tweaking, moving, but the rule is that he is not allowed to add any material: he has to use what is given to him. The practice echoes the Surrealist game of Exquisite Cadaver, in which pictures of bodies are collectively drawn on the basis that each successive participant can only just see the edges of their predecessor’s contribution. Rehberger’s variation on this theme particularly questions notions of (his) authorship but also emphasizes the influence of chance. For Rehberger, art exists as much in the engagement with its makers and viewers and the conversations that it generates rather than its objecthood, of the thing displayed itself. This is reinforced by the title Infection and the nature of the materials from which they are composed. The colored two-dimensional strips exist in three-dimensional space; as three-dimensional drawings. They are artworks too but also just lamps. They are fragile, delicate and not completely stable. A light breeze can make a lamp turn like a mobile. Each element – Velcro strips, cable and a lightbulb and socket – and the force of gravity alone contributes to how the composition as a whole hangs, how it is presented, along with the collective decisions that led to its ultimate form and how it should be displayed. The Infections are both self-sufficient and a product of collective effort, and slowly they are infiltrating more and more spaces and places.

The final essential part of the exhibition are the wall works, comprising huge floor-to-ceiling pixelated images. To the naked eye the images are largely indistinct or at best ambiguous but seen through a mobile phone viewfinder, reveal their hidden subject. At the Beyeler Foundation and Art Basel Miami Beach in 2015, the images were pornographic, giving a frisson or shock to unwitting admirers who wanted to make a keepsake record of seemingly innocuous abstract design. At these locations and at Rockbund, the pixilation extended to boxy benches, pedestals and planters, more than hinting that pixilation is also a virulent infection.

Every aspect of Rehberger’s work is informed by the concupiscence in how we experience art, and more generally in how we engage with images and truth in the post-Internet universe. Art is not a thing but a function of how it is created and experienced. It relies on social exchanges and accidents, slippages and misinterpretations, at once charming and perverse, public and private. It can be trusted but perhaps shouldn’t be, which makes the questions it asks, posed in search engines and observed through viewfinders, more vital, the more seductive and infectious it becomes.


Cao Yu
Femme Fatale

Exhibition Views

17.4.- 25.5. 2019
Opening: Wednesday, April 17, 2019, 5.30 - 7.30pm

Cao Yu

Kneeling Figure III,
124 x 85 x 12 cm


Cao Yu
Femme Fatale

2019 (english)

Galerie Urs Meile is pleased to present Cao Yu’s Femme Fatale, the artist’s second solo exhibition with the gallery and her first solo exhibition in Europe.

Cao Yu continues to expand her oeuvre by presenting a new series of photographic works entitled Femme Fatale, which gave its title to the exhibition and is the artist’s first attempt at photography. The experimental nature of Cao Yu’s exhibitions stems from I Have an Hourglass Waist - the artist’s first solo exhibition at the gallery’s Beijing outpost. From video to sculpture, installation to work on canvas, and now photography, her multidisciplinary practice is crucial in challenging the perception of her surroundings, experiences and her role as an artist. Cao Yu’s interpretation is jarring and contemplative for both a new and familiar audience.

The exhibition features three larger-than-life, full-length photographic portraits from the Femme Fatale series (2019, Edition of 2 + 1 AP, c-print, each 250 x 140 cm). The golden frames accentuate their grandiose in a style that resembles eighteenth-century Regence frames often used for portraits of the French monarchs. Instead, Cao Yu’s subjects consist of ordinary, yet distinctive men of different classes caught in the action of urinating in public. Each man reveals his social class, be it the typical white-collar worker looking down at the ground, the drunker shouting and pointing at onlooker or the corporate executive with his head held up high. None appears to shy away from the gaze of a stranger. Their exhibitionist behaviors match uncannily well with those of the French monarchs. In the work Kneeling Figure (2018, canvas, each 134 x 84 x 12 cm), Cao Yu performs the act of kneeling - an ancient etiquette in the Chinese feudal system - on an empty canvas until the canvas is left with two concave voids. The viewers are absorbed by the traces of the artist’s action and baffled as to what is the artist kneeling for and to whom? The Femme Fatale series and the Kneeling Figure reconsider the struggle of power dynamics through time on issues relating to class, gender and tradition.

The exhibition will also present a new sculpture work, Yeah, I am Everywhere (2019, green marble, cast copper with 24k gold-plating, 2 pieces; 20 x 62 x 42 cm, 54 x 70 x 40 cm), and two marble sculptures: The World is Like This for Now II (2018, single long hair (the artist’s own), marble, 2 pieces; 96 x 59 x 50 cm, 73 x 65 x 30 cm) and 90°C IV (2019, marble, silk stocking, 56 x 46 x 36 cm). For the artist, stones like marble are usually perceived as lifeless, but she purposely inserts objects such as stockings and reproductions of human fingers to breathe life into these otherwise considered silent materials. They represent the ‘pressure in life’, states Cao Yu. For the new sculpture Yeah, I am Everywhere, the artist appropriates a set of green marbles whose color suggests the forthcoming spring. Rather than the wildflowers emerging from the greens of the blooming spring, Cao Yu implants ten gold plating finger shapes - modeled after the artist’s own fingers - onto the green marble. Just like the chaotic wildflowers, the golden fingers represent an infinite, vigorous growth that shines through despite constraints from the outside world, as if shouting “Yeah, I am Everywhere”. The marble sculpture series comments on the omnipresent burden in life but provides a different way of understanding our surrounding.

Cao Yu’s controversial video work Fountain - previously removed from her graduate show - will be presented with two video works titled I Have and The Labourer. The 11-minute-long video Fountain (2015, Edition of 10 + 2 AP, single channel HD video (colour, silent), 11’10”) depicts the artist using her own body as a performative tool to carry out a long and exhausting process of squeezing breast milk until her breasts run dry. The title of the work is a response to the often-masculine association in art history made with works such as Marcel Duchamp’s Fountain (1917) and Bruce Nauman’s Self-Portrait as a Fountain (1966-67). The work  I Have (2017, Edition of 6 + 2 AP, single channel HD video (colour, sound), 4’22’’) consists in the artist narrating to the camera while boasting all the positive and envy-inducing traits she claims to have, with each sentence starting with: “I have…”. The Labourer (2017, Edition of 6 + 2 AP,single channel HD video (colour, silent), 8’33”) portrays the act of kneading dough. Instead of using hands and water, the video shows the artist repetitively mixing the flour with her feet and her own urine. The Labourer offers stark visual contrast to the Femme Fatale photography series but shares reciprocal nuances. The gender reversal psychology in Cao Yu’s works is reminiscent of a 1906 silent comedy film Les Résultats du Féminisme (The Consequences of Feminism) by French female director Alice Guy, where gender roles have been inverted. It depicts men as child-carer in charge of the household while women drink at cafés while courting men. Cao Yu’s autobiographical video works reflect on the notion of gender and social stereotypes.

The exhibition greets visitors with an interactive installation on the gallery door handle. The work titled Perplexing Romance consists of yellow Vaseline smeared all over the door handle, towards which each visitor is compelled and tempted but simultaneously irritated by the “perplex” welcome. As one enters, a member of the gallery staff will provide visitors with tissues with the artist’s signature to rub their hands clean and then toss them away. Visitors are also encouraged to visit the gallery’s washroom as they will encounter a sound installation titled The Flesh Flavour (2017, Edition of 3 + 1 AP,sound, 13’13”). Composed of a random assortment of bizarre noises that emits recognizable sounds of chewing, sexual intercourses or skin being whipped all originating from an unknown corner of the room, this sound installation baffles visitors with contempt. Back in the gallery space, visitors are bound to access the main gallery space by stepping on an installation work titled The Colourful Clouds (2017, black bras, 10 x 300 x 345 cm), composed of a stack of black-colored bras placed on the gallery floor. Next to the installation is the work The World Has Nothing to Do with Me II, a site-specific installation consisting in a single hair of the artist’s passing through two tiny holes carved into the gallery wall. The work often stands unnoticed, just like the opposing forces we encounter in life, which we often ignore as we tend to concentrate on our own personal narratives. The juxtaposition of these two installation works allows visitors to establish a personal connection with the artist’s experience through activating their senses and perspectives.

Everything is Left Behind is another new series that will be present on this occasion. The three canvases (each 2018, canvas, fallen long hair (the artist’s), each 135 x 90 cm) with Chinese texts rendered using the artist’s hair illustrate the stereotypical comments and opinions forced upon the artist at various stages of her life such as childhood, teenage years, motherhood and being a wife in China. As one steers their eyes towards the other side of the gallery wall, a set of eight canvases from the canvas-series (2018-2019, sign pen on canvas, each 75 x 75 x 15 cm) with vivid patches of hues brightens the space. Titled after their start and completion dates since 2012, it is one of the longest ongoing series of Cao Yu’s oeuvre. According to the artist, it was the first time that she questioned herself about art. Cao Yu follows the threads on each canvas with sign pens as if aimlessly wandering in a foreign space. Whether in textual or in abstract forms, these canvases record the traces of Cao Yu’s path as an artist. There is one prevailing question that the artist addresses to her audience: how can art make sense of our seemingly inconceivable society?

In the works of Cao Yu, one finds consistent opposing elements in each work, yet the artist seeks to address them through various lenses, may it be gender, class, ideology or time related issues. Her multidisciplinary practice provides viewers with a myriad of visual narratives while delving into broader issues in society. Drawing from her own experience, Cao Yu’s works reflect on the zeitgeist and attempts to define what it means to be a female, a Chinese and an artist in the current climate. As a female, she addresses issues on gender with the inclusion of the male narrative. As a Chinese, she draws on Chinese tradition and custom in an expansive and contemporary language. And as an artist, she continually challenges her artistic practice and confronts ideas on art, people and society. Her works are not opinionated. Instead, they allow viewers to form their interpretation under an organic process, either through direct physical interaction with a work or by being visually drawn to them. Viewers are invited to reconstitute the artist’s experience through her works and reflect on her surroundings experience as an artist, a wife and a woman in today’s society.

Cao Yu was born in Liaoning, China in 1988 and lives and works in Beijing. She received a BFA and MA in Sculpture from the Central Academy of Fine Arts, Beijing, China. Her recent major group exhibitions were held at Baxter Street at Camera Club, New York (2019), Museum of Applied Arts, Vienna (2019); Zhuzhong Art Museum, Beijing (2018); Martina Tauber Fine Art, Munich (2018); Beijing Minsheng Art Museum, Beijing (2018); Diskurs Berlin (2017); Artspace, Sydney, Australia (2017); Palais de Tokyo, Paris (2016). She was awarded Young Artist of the Year, 12th AAC Award of Art China (2018);Nomination of Prix Yishu 8 (2017). Her works are in the collection of M+ Collection, Hong Kong; Zhuzhong Art Museum, Beijing; Si Shang Art Museum, Beijing; Central Academy of Fine Arts Art Museum, Beijing.



2019 (deutsch)

Die Galerie Urs Meile freut sich, Femme Fatale die zweite Einzelausstellung von Cao Yu mit der Galerie, und ihre erste Ausstellung in Europa präsentieren zu dürfen.

Cao Yu erweitert ihr Oeuvre um die Fotoserie Femme Fatale, welche zugleich der Ausstellung den Titel gibt. Es ist das erste Mal, dass sich die Künstlerin mit dem Medium Fotografie auseinandersetzt. Cao Yu’s experimentell geprägte künstlerische Praxis wurde dem Publikum in ihrer Einzelausstellung I Have a Hourglass Waist 2017 in der Pekinger Dependance der Galerie erstmals präsentiert. Ihr multidisziplinäres Schaffen, das von Video zu Skulptur, von Installationen zu Arbeiten auf Leinwand und nun auch Fotografie reicht, ist geprägt von der Auseinandersetzung mit ihrer Umgebung, ihren persönlichen Erfahrungen sowie ihrer Rolle als Künstlerin. Auf diese Weise sind Cao Yu’s Interpretationen sowohl für neues als auch für vertrautes Publikum aufrüttelnd und kontemplativ zugleich.

In der Ausstellung sind drei überlebensgroße Porträtfotografien aus der Serie Femme Fatale (2019, Edition von 2 + 1 AP, c-print, je 250 x 140 cm) zu sehen. Die goldenen Rahmen akzentuieren den pompösen Stil, der an die Bilderrahmen aus der französischen Régence-Zeit im 18. Jahrhundert erinnert, welche oft für Porträts der französischen Monarchen verwendet wurden. Im Gegensatz dazu, stellen Cao Yu’s abgebildete Charaktere gewöhnliche, aber dennoch sich voneinander unterscheidende Männer aus verschiedenen Gesellschaftsklassen dar, die beim öffentlichen Urinieren ertappt werden. Jeder der Männer enthüllt auf den Fotografien seine soziale Schicht. Sei es der typische Büroangestellte, der auf den Boden blickt, der Betrunkene, welcher rumschreit und auf Passanten zeigt, oder die Führungsperson mit erhobenem Haupt. Keiner unter ihnen scheint den Blick eines Fremden zu scheuen. Ihr exhibitionistisches Verhalten kann parallel zu dem der französischen Monarchen gelesen werden. Für die Arbeit Kneeling Figure (2018, Leinwand, je 134 x 84 x 12 cm) kniet Cao Yu auf einer leeren Leinwand – eine alte Etikette im chinesischen Feudalsystem – bis sich auf der Leinwand zwei konkave Hohlräume abzeichnen. Die Betrachter werden von den Spuren der Handlung der Künstlerin eingenommen und sind vor die Frage gestellt, weswegen und für wen die Künstlerin kniet. Die Serie Femme Fatale sowie Kneeling Figure reflektieren über die Dynamiken der Macht im Laufe der Zeit in Bezug auf gesellschaftliche Klassen, Geschlecht und Tradition.

Zudem werden in der Ausstellung Yeah, I am Everywhere (2019, grüner Marmor, 24k vergoldeter Kupferguss,2-teilig; 20 x 62 x 42 cm, 54 x 70 x 40 cm) – eine neue skulpturale Arbeit – und zwei Marmorskulpturen The World is Like This for Now II (2018, ein einzelnes langes Haar der Künstlerin, Marmor, 2-teilig; 96x 59 x 50 cm, 73 x 65 x 30 cm) und 90°C IV (2019, Marmor, Seidenstrumpf, 56 x 46 x 36 cm) gezeigt. Im Verständnis der Künstlerin, werden Steine wie Marmor in der Regel als leblos empfunden, bewusst fügt ihnen Cao Yu Elemente wie Strümpfe und menschliche Finger hinzu, um diesem ansonsten stumm wirkenden Material Leben einzuhauchen. Sie stellen den „Druck des Lebens“ dar, sagt Cao Yu. Für die neue Skulptur Yeah, I am Everywhere wählt die Künstlerin grünen Marmor, dessen Farbe sie mit dem bevorstehenden Frühling assoziiert. Anstelle von spriessenden Wildblumen, die aus dem Grün des blühenden Frühlings hervorgehen, pflanzt Cao Yu zehn vergoldete Fingerformen, die den Fingern der Künstlerin nachgebildet sind, auf den grünen Marmor. Genau wie die chaotisch wachsenden Wildblumen stehen die goldenen Finger für ein unendlich kräftiges Wachstum, das trotz Einschränkungen durch die Außenwelt durchscheint, als ob es "Yeah, I am Everywhere" schreien würde. Die Serie der Marmorskulpturen versteht sich als Kommentar zu den allgegenwärtigen Bürden des Lebens, bietet jedoch eine differenziertere Sichtweise auf unsere Umgebung an.

Cao Yu‘s kontroverse Videoarbeit Fountain – die damals aus der Abschlussausstellung ihrer Universität entfernt wurde – wird zusammen mit den zwei Videoarbeiten I Have und The Labourer präsentiert. Das 11 Minuten lange Video Fountain (2015, Edition von 10 + 2 AP, Einkanal-Video, HD, Farbe, ohne Ton, 11’10”) zeigt die Künstlerin, die ihren eigenen Körper als performatives Werkzeug verwendet. In einem langen und anstrengenden Prozess presst sie Muttermilch aus ihren Brüsten, bis diese vollständig ausgepumpt sind. Der Titel der Arbeit ist eine Antwort auf die in der Kunstgeschichte häufig männliche Assoziation mit Werken wie Marcel Duchamp’s Fountain (1917) und Bruce Nauman’s Self-Portrait as a Fountain (1966-67). In I Have (2017, Edition von 6 + 2 AP, Einkanal-Video, HD, Farbe, Ton, 4’22’’) erzählt die Künstlerin vor laufender Kamera, welche positiven und neidauslösenden Eigenschaften sie angeblich besitzt, wobei jeder Satz mit “Ich habe ...” beginnt. The Labourer (2017, Edition von 6 + 2 AP, Einkanal-Video, HD, Farbe, ohne Ton, 8’33”) zeigt den Akt des Teigknetens. Anstatt Hände und Wasser zu verwenden, dokumentiert das Video, wie die Künstlerin das Mehl wiederholt mit ihren Füßen und ihrem eigenen Urin mischt. The Labourer steht einerseits in starkem visuellem Kontrast zur Fotoserie Femme Fatale, teilt jedoch auch wechselseitige Nuancen mit ihr: Die Gender-Umkehrpsychologie in Cao Yu‘s Arbeiten erinnert an die Stummfilmgroteske Les Résultats du Feminisme (1906) der französischen Regisseurin Alice Guy, in welcher die Geschlechterrollen vertauscht werden. Der Film zeigt Männer im Haushalt und bei der Kinderbetreuung, während Frauen in Cafés trinken und Männer umwerben. Cao Yu‘s autobiografische Videoarbeiten hinterfragen die Vorstellung von Gender und sozial konstruierten Stereotypen.

Die Ausstellung empfängt die Besucher mit einer interaktiven Installation am Türgriff der Galerie. Das Werk mit dem Titel Perplexing Romance besteht aus gelber Vaseline, die am gesamten Türgriff der Galerie verschmiert ist. Jeder Besucher ist gezwungen und in Versuchung geführt diese zu berühren, aber gleichzeitig irritiert von der “perplexen” Begrüßung. Beim Eintreten stellt ein Galeriemitarbeiter dem Besucher ein Tuch, welches die Unterschrift der Künstlerin trägt, zur Verfügung, um sich die Hände abzuwischen und es anschliessend in einem der bereitgestellten Plastiksäcke zu entsorgen. Die Besucher werden zudem aufgefordert den Waschraum der Galerie zu benutzen, wo sie auf eine Klanginstallation mit dem Titel The Flesh Flavour (2017, Edition von 3 + 1 AP, Ton, 13’13”) stoßen. Komponiert aus einer zufälligen Auswahl an bizarren Geräuschen wie lautem Kauen, Geräusche eines Paares beim Geschlechtsverkehr oder Peitschenhieben aus unbekannter Richtung stellen die Besucher vor ein verwirrendes Rätsel. Zurück im Galerieraum, sind die Besucher gezwungen, über die Installation The Colourful Clouds (2017, schwarze BHs, 10 x 300 x 345 cm), – einer Anordnung von schwarzen BHs auf dem Boden – den Hauptraum zu betreten. In direkter Nachbarschaft zur BH-Installation wird die Arbeit The World Has Nothing to Do with Me II ausgestellt, eine ortsspezifische Installation, bestehend aus einem einzelnen Haar der Künstlerin, welches durch die Galeriewand gezogen und zusammengeknüpft wurde. Dieses Werk bleibt oft unbemerkt, ähnlich wie wir die gegensätzlichen Kräfte in unserem Leben ignorieren, da sich jeder auf sein persönliches Narrativ fokussiert. Indem seine Sinne aktiviert werden, erlaubt es die Gegenüberstellung der beiden Installationsarbeiten dem Besucher eine persönliche Verbindung zum Erleben der Künstlerin herzustellen.

Everything is Left Behind (2018, Leinwand, lange Einzelhaare der Künstlerin, je 135 x 90 cm) ist eine weitere neue Serie, welche in der aktuellen Ausstellung präsentiert wird. Cao Yu verwendete ihre eigenen Haare, um die Leinwände mit chinesischen Texten zu besticken. Auf den drei Leinwände stehen stereotypische Kommentare und Meinungen, mit denen die Künstlerin im Verlaufe ihres Lebens als heranwachsendes Mädchen, als Teenager, als Mutter oder Ehefrau in China konfrontiert wurde. An der gegenüberliegenden Galeriewand, reihen sich acht farbige Leinwände der Canvas-Serie (2018-2019, Kugelschreiber auf Leinwand, je 75 x 75 x 15 cm), welche Cao Yu seit 2012 fortführt. Benannt sind die Arbeiten mit dem jeweiligen Anfangs- und Fertigstellungsdatum. Laut der Künstlerin hat sie die Arbeit an dieser Serie dazu bewegt, Kunst als solches zu hinterfragen. Cao Yu folgt jedem Faden der Leinwand mit verschiedenfarbigen Zeichenstiften, als ob sie ziellos durch einen fremden Raum wandern würden. Egal ob in Textform oder in abstrakter Form, diese Leinwände zeichnen die Spuren von Cao Yu’s Weg als Künstlerin nach. So stellt sie eine dominante Frage an das Publikum: Wie kann Kunst unserer komplexen Gesellschaft Sinn geben?

In Cao Yu’s Werken finden sich gegensätzliche Elemente, welche die Künstlerin aus verschiedenen Perspektiven betrachtet, sei es das Geschlecht, gesellschaftliche Klassifizierungen, oder Fragen zu Ideologie und Zeit. Ihre multidisziplinäre Praxis konfrontiert den Betrachter mit einer Vielzahl visueller Narrative und befasst sich vertieft mit aktuellen gesellschaftlichen Themen. Cao Yu’s Arbeiten reflektieren den Zeitgeist und versuchen zu definieren, was es bedeutet, Frau, Chinesin und Künstlerin in unserer heutigen Gesellschaft zu sein. Als Frau befasst sie sich mit Genderfragen unter Einbeziehung des männlichen Narrativs. Als Chinesin greift sie chinesische Tradition und Sitte mit einer zeitgenössischen Sprache auf. Als Künstlerin stellt sie immer wieder ihre künstlerische Praxis in Frage und konfrontiert diese mit Ideen zu Kunst, Mensch und Gesellschaft. Ihre Werke sind nicht rechthaberisch. Sie ermöglichen dem Betrachter eine Annäherung durch direkte physische Interaktion mit einem Werk, oder über visuelle Anziehung. Die Zuschauer sind eingeladen, die Erfahrungen der Künstlerin über ihre Arbeiten nachzuvollziehen und ihre Erfahrungen als Künstlerin, Frau und Ehefrau in der heutigen Gesellschaft zu reflektieren.

Cao Yu wurde 1988 in Liaoning, China, geboren und lebt und arbeitet in Peking. Sie absolvierte einen BFA und MA in Skulptur an der Central Academy of Fine Arts, Peking, China. Jüngst wurden ihre Werke in folgenden Gruppenausstellungen gezeigt: Baxter Street im Camera Club, New York (2019), Museum für Angewandte Kunst, Wien (2019); Zhuzhong Art Museum, Peking (2018); Martina Tauber Fine Art, München (2018); Beijing Minsheng Art Museum, Peking (2018); Diskurs Berlin (2017); Artspace, Sydney, Australia (2017); Palais de Tokyo, Paris (2016). Cao Yu wurde zum Young Artist of the Year gekürt, 12. AAC Award of Art China (2018), und war nominiert für den Prix Yishu 8 in China (2017). Ihre Werke befinden sich in folgenden Sammlungen: M + Collection, Hong Kong; Zhuzhong Art Museum, Peking; Si Shang Art Museum, Peking; Central Academy of Fine Arts Art Museum, Peking.