Chen Tianzhuo’s public installation WAWADOLL IS XMAS DATA for Hong Kong art mall K11 is on view from 6 November 2014 into January 2015. Conceptualizing the project with the artist from start to finish, my contribution involved helping bring an often controversial practice into a highly regulated commercial public space.
WAWADOLL is not a toy come to life; WAWADOLL is a picture of a doll come to life. WAWADOLL lives in the ether of the media; WAWADOLL is a phantom made of images who grows more and more solid as her pictures appear closer and closer to xmas. WAWADOLL lives in toy catalogues, television commercials, mall displays, holiday parades, and xmas movies. WAWADOLL is a game. WAWADOLL is media and makes media. WAWADOLL comes from outer space, when all of our festive satellite signals reflect off of the moon and bounce back down to earth. WAWADOLL is everywhere, beaming down every street and smiling up from every page, leaking out of every screen and jumping out of every doll box. WAWADOLL is here to consume and be consumed. WAWADOLL is xmas data.
Chen Tianzhuo’s work often revels in the absurdities of urban youth culture, creating direct parallel relationships between the underground and the mainstream through complex systems of signs that draw on tradition, belonging, and subcultures. With WAWADOLL, he experiments with turning mainstream media culture into something a bit darker, creating an adoring subculture around a character drawn from the most widespread of media and consumer holidays. WAWADOLL is a media character made of pure images, who springs forth from the reflections of Christmas season marketing. Because she is a reflection of data, her signal is beamed off of the earth all of the time, and reflects off of the moon before being bounced back to earth. The astronaut and other “outer space” elements are drawn from the fact that WAWADOLL actually comes to earth from space. The astronaut, that privileged traveler between this world and the next, is thus not only someone she met in space, but also the first “witness” to her appearance. As Chen Tianzhuo’s first exhibition in Hong Kong, this exhibition brings him into public space for the first time in two important ways: first, it is his first opportunity working with large-scale installation outside of the gallery environment; and second, it is his first time modulating his artistic language in a way that can be read and understood by a much wider audience. Because of this, the themes he has chosen to work with are also tied to this idea of subculture versus mainstream, so the whole exhibition becomes an attempt to negotiate its own environment. Asian mall art about Asian mall art.