Photo by Shen Boliang

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The organinzation Forget Art presented a show at the Dragon Bathhouse in China’s Caochangdi Art District.

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By Shen Boliang, ARTINFO China
Published: September 24, 2010

http://www.artinfo.com/news/story/35854/a-steamy-contemporary-art-show-washes-up-in-a-beijing-bathhouse/

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BEIJING— Monday is usually a dead day for Beijing’s art scene, with the galleries and museums closed after a bustling weekend of openings — a day when the finely attired gallery-hoppers and scene-makers can finally take a rest. This past Monday, however, an art event referred to as a “micro intervention” took place at the Dragon Fountain public bathhouse in the Caochangdi Art District, luring Beijing culture mavens out of their post-weekend hibernation. The publicity poster read: “People dressed in normal attire will be denied entry; those in underwear and bathrobes have priority.”

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The Dragon Fountain Bathhouse is close to Caochangdi’s Red Yard No. 1 art complex — home to leading galleries such as Chambers Fine Art — and anyone who has ever been to the district has no doubt passed by at some point. On the day of the event, the publicity poster’s threats were proven empty: nobody actually came dressed in their underwear or bathrobes, although the men’s and women’s baths were functioning as usual. Familiar faces in the art world could be seen skulking about, looking for artworks. For while 30 artists participated in this happening, there were no labels pointing out where the works might be, or to mark to which artist they should be attributed.

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Upon entering the men’s baths, a cat and a dog could be seen lying together on a massage table, pumped full of drugs to make harmonious bedfellows of natural enemies. The work, by Deng Dapai, was titled “Detention.” Across the room, a television showed Gao Ming’s animated film “Miss Su’s Mountain.” On a bed opposite rested a small paper polyhedron by He Yida that had been allowed to dampen and sag in the bath’s humidity. A soccer ball by Liang Bing in the corner was painted to resemble a volleyball, and for Wang Guangle’s appropriately named “Imitation Terrazzo,” a piece of cement had been painted in acrylic to look like the faux marble.

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In the center of the men’s baths, surrounded by water and illuminated by candlelight, lay a Chinese zither-like instrument, titled “Wave,” by artist Li Bo. Above the sauna furnace hung Yang Xinguang’s “UFO,” an annulus of light that added a mysterious, extra-terrestrial ambiance to the scene. In Xu Xiaoguo’s “Evaporation,” a glass of clear bathwater boiled away on a small camping stove.

In the women’s baths one could admire a huge pink cloth dumbbell by Wu Di set atop a massage table. It looked light and fluffy, but was in fact extremely heavy. Obstructing the entrance to the changing room was a stone made of sticky rice, “Stubborn Object, No. 1″ by Canadian artist Stephanie Shepherd. It was unclear whether this “stone” was intended as an obstacle or to serve some other purpose.

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A piece attributed to Italian artist, Alessandro Rolandi, titled “Voices,” featured the names of female poets from around the world, inscribed on lockers in the changing room. Some of the lockers were open and empty, others closed, and still others filled with magnificent clothing and jewelry — artist Cai Weidong’s contribution, “Props,” once worn by models Cai photographed.

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Many of the works from the men’s and women’s baths seemed to function in tandem: in the men’s changing room, lockers also brimmed with clothes, but of a less glamorous variety. In Yang Guangnan’s “Garbage,” a black bucket was filled with dark bathing water, emphasizing the power of “yin” (or female) forces, and offering a counterpart to the boiling cup of water on the women’s side. Affixed to the wall, the sign “Careful! Slippery When Wet!” was remade by the artist Wu Xiaojun to read, “Be Careful of Them!”. The sounds of women hurriedly washing themselves were amplified and played back for Ren Bo’s “Dragon Fountain Bathhouse.”

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In the showers, brightly colored female undergarments were draped over the faucets in Li Wei’s “Han Fanggang Got Lost.” In the sauna, meanwhile, Yang Guangnan installed his “Curtain,” composed of razors sewn into the decorative door hanging, illuminated by candlelight. A secret peephole made by artist Gao Feng leads from the women’s washing quarters into the men’s, recasting women as sexual aggressors.

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This event was organized by artist Ma Yongfeng and his independent venture, Forget Art, which employs “nomadic urban” strategies to create art “happenings,” inserting so-called “micro interventions” into the everyday. The organization aims to promote the forgetting of the extant forms of contemporary art, allowing for the creation of truly new art. It was in this spirit that visitors were supposed to read the paradoxical words of Austrian artist Ulrike Johannsen, pasted all over the walls, mirrors, and other surfaces of the site: “Please remember to forget art.”