WHEN DOG ́S MOUTH SPITS IVORY
Curated by Heinz-Norbert Jocks
Opening: Thursday, 1 June, 6 pm HOHE STRASSE 53
2 June - 15 July 2017
Tong Kunniao, who at age 26 is well on his way to becoming a shooting star not only in China, belongs to a generation of unconventional artists who is radically setting themselves apart from the matadors and pioneers of the Chinese avant-garde with their concepts, visions, and ideas.
Tong grew up during the heyday of Chinese contemporary art, with its worldwide breakthrough at Harald Szeemann’s 48th Biennale in Venice (1999) and the legendary Paris exhibition conceived by Jean-Hubert Martin, Magiciens de la Terre (1989). Tong, like many of his generation, is a multi-faceted artist filled with an ebullient sense of fantasy. Oscillating among media, he does not focus on a single medium. Alongside kinetic thing assemblages that are reminiscent of Jean Tinguely’s loud, machine-drive machine sculptures from the 1960s – although they only vaguely have something in common – he also creates images and video works.
Tong, both an ardent poet of things that can be experienced in a tactile manner and a collecting flâneur at flea markets and on the street is something like a conceptual artist without blinders who thinks in images, that is, with his eyes. For two years now, he has been underway, as he once put it, ‘feeling his way though the world like an innocent child’ or ‘sniffing his way around the world like a dog’.
This exhibition, curated by Heinz-Norbert Jocks, When Dog’s Mouth Spits Ivory, is the fascinating result of one month of research in Düsseldorf that began with visits to area flea markets. He also strolled through the streets of the city, and he found things and materials which he then used to create kinetic assembla- ge-sculptures and unconventional images, working like an easygoing magician with a subversive sense of humour. This attests to a sensual poetry of metamorphosis and are for him unorthodox fetishes of memory and traces of culture. He uses them to give free rein to his unbridled fantasy. What emerges in the process is more than just the representation of a distant culture, but also the drive to subjectivate the junk he has collected.
For Tong, the things he has harvested are like paints for a painter, raw materials that inspire his imaginary and playful and associative visions without bounds. A joyful pleasure in movement that pulls through his entire oeuvre plays a central role here. For him, everything is in a powerful flow of constant transformation. He prefers the used to the new, things that are cheap, peripheral, discarded and disposed of, where the scars of time have left their mark, to create something unique out of them, whereby the old meanings are transcended and something sensually ambiguous can emerge. He is somebody who can create evocative poems to the eternal temporary not with words but with junk, like an obsessive daydreamer without blin- ders.