Yongqingfang × UCCA Lab First Exhibition on Intangible Cultural Heritage of South China
The first exhibition of UCCA Lab's intangible cultural heritage in South China, “Birthing from the Existence: New Stories in the West Port,” opened on Sep. 25th in the West Port Mansion, No. 3 Jixiangfang, the Yongqingfang Street, Guangzhou. PILLS was invited to design the exhibition space. The space is located in a historic building in Yongqingfang, the first intangible cultural heritage district in Guangzhou. Yongqingfang is located in the old West Port, with the most cultural heritage in Guangzhou. It is built along Enning Road, the most beautiful “arcade street” in Guangzhou. The exhibition area gathers intangible cultural heritage projects such as Guangzhou colored porcelain, Guangzhou embroidering, enamel, ivory carving, lion dance, guqin, etc. Its unique architectural form of the West Port represents the most typical old Guangzhou cultural style. The exhibition theme of “Birthing from the Existence” attempts to echo the intangible cultural heritage background of the Yongqingfang and promote dialogue between contemporary art and intangible cultural heritage. This time, UCCA Lab collaborated with three contemporary Chinese artists, Wei He, Xiaoqing Cui, and Noise Temple, to explore the relationship between intangible cultural heritage and current as well as future contexts. They explore this relationship through various forms of artistic expression involving installation, new media, sound, and art. We attempt to use the language of space to interpret the exhibition theme “Birthing from the Existence”. This theme represents the inheritance and development of the old and the new. The design concept is based on the traditional West Port Mansion, which grows inward and bursts out with new spatial vitality, inheriting memories and exploring the future. We are trying to respond to this inheritance in terms of form, space, and design concepts. We try to connect artists with intangible cultural heritage memories, building a bridge between contemporary art and traditional craftsmanship. Something Begets Something More: the New from the Old Regarding the building renovation strategy, the exhibition space is located in a historical building at the end of the West Port street. The geographical location is relatively remote, and the building entrance is not obvious, which is in a blind spot for tourists. We introduce block walls in the lobby hall on the first and second floors. This idea is derived from the traditional red and green buildings in Guangzhou, forming spatial blocks to break out the old architectural form, showcasing a collision between the new and the old, guiding the audience into the exhibition hall while activating the original impression of the neighborhood. In terms of colors and symbols, we hope to inherit and showcase the traditions and memories of local architecture while showcasing the contemporary artistic atmosphere. We chose red and green as the main colors, derived from traditional West Port architecture. We also retained the old building's traditional floral windows and floor. On the second floor, we restored the shared spatial memory of the space - the Golden Sound Cinema. The old-fashioned desk lamps, old cinema seats, retro TV colors, and images of the nine intangible cultural heritage memories not only preserved the original architectural aesthetics but also reshaped the memory and symbols of the local space, bringing the audience back to a scene that carries the precious memories of several generations of the West Port people. Something Begets Something More: Up & Down, New & Old Correspondence The traditional West Port architecture has limited indoor space, and we faced contradictions and challenges in transforming traditional residential buildings into exhibition spaces. Although the indoor space feels narrow, it aligns from top to bottom, and the structure is clear. Taking advantage of this feature, the design concept is constructed based on the spatial correspondence between new and old time clues in intangible cultural heritage memory. We divided the exhibition hall into three sets of spatial forms aligning from top to bottom, and each space corresponds to a different design need. The first floor presents the future, and the second floor presents the past. On the first floor, we present the rebirth of three groups of artists who endow and interpret three intangible cultural heritage techniques through contemporary art language. At the same location on the second floor, we presented three sets of intangible cultural heritage techniques behind contemporary artworks. Looking from the past to the future, the cross-section of the architecture is the memory of intangible cultural heritage. The artist group Noise Temple created a sound and image interactive device that provides an immersive viewing experience for the audience based on the intangible cultural heritage of the Guangdong lion dance. At the corresponding position on the second floor, we invited Weibin Zhao, the inheritor of the Guangdong lion dance, to create a giant lion head that fills the entire exhibition hall. The audience is invited to enter the lion head and immerse themselves in this larger-scale lion art, observing the structural aesthetics of the lion head made of bamboo strips. We opened a doorway on the lion head structure and invited the audience to enter the lion head, interactively experiencing the exquisite mechanisms inside the lion head. The observer's identity was transformed into a lion dancer who awakens this Guangdong divine beast. The paper-cutting works created by Xiaoqing Cui, based on the olive carving “A Tale of the Boat,” are hung around the dome layer by layer, extending the spirit of a tiny olive containing a vast world to the exhibition theme. In the same location on the second floor, we placed a circular sound device that corresponds in form and space; and we invited the audience to approach the olive carving through three different periods of sound memory in Guangzhou city. The artists' paper-cutting content on the first floor goes from the story of the olive boat to outer space, and that on the second floor goes from modern to ancient times. The audience walks along the winding corridor into the urban voice of Guangzhou, returning to the urban memory of the story of the olive boat. Artist Wei He's work “Curtain” combines a hanging curtain device with a dynamic projection, using a thin gauze to go through the room diagonally. The highly decorative spatial atmosphere showcases the ethereal and beautiful emptiness of Guangzhou enamel, triggering the audience's reflection on the current situation of intangible cultural heritage. In the same spatial orientation on the second floor, we used gypsum replica enamel bottles and exquisite Guangzhou enamel bottles to build an enamel inclined wall, showcasing the different cross-sections of the enamel bottles, forming a silent dialogue between the two. The sound installation “Dapu Experiment” by the atrium artist Jin Huang is inspired by the Chinese instrument guqin. It uses a simplified pure physical structure to create sound, and creates a narrow and deep central courtyard as a natural sound transmission space, transforming the guqin classical rhyme into a contemporary “Dapu Experiment". Something Begets Something More: Exploring Significance from the Littles The design challenge we face is how to display small-scale exhibits at a larger scale of a room, which is how to extend an olive carving, a lion head, and an enamel bottle to the scale of a room. We used a vortex-shaped sound device in the olive carving exhibition hall to invite the audience to enter the space along a curved sound corridor. The olive curving boat is finally revealed, encompassing everything in one form, gradually attracting the audience's interest from the entire room to the small olive. In the exhibition hall of the Guangdong lion dance, the traditional lion dance showcases the exquisite craftsmanship outside the lion's head. On the second floor, we displayed a room-sized lion head that can be accessed for exploring and interaction. While reusing the immersive spatial design and perception style on the first floor, we presented the complex structure and exquisite mechanisms inside the lion head with a new spatial perspective, sensory experience, and scale, reinterpreting the spirit of intangible cultural heritage. At the Guangzhou enamel exhibition hall, we used 30 enamel bottle prototypes as well as gypsum replica enamel bottles to form an inclined wall. The gypsum bottles were cut to varying degrees. Together with 30 crafted and colored enamel bottles, we created a dynamic modern scene, attempting to break people's obsolete impression of the intangible cultural heritage. Project Overview In summary, via the three spatial strategies mentioned above, we weaved contemporary exhibition spaces into traditional West Port buildings with profound cultural senses, organizing the narrow and limited indoor space as narratives for the exhibition, allowing the memories and spatial symbols to emerge from the building and to be presented to the audience. Three sets of contemporary artworks and traditional intangible cultural heritage techniques correspond to each other, connecting artists and inheritors. They provide a new interpretation of intangible cultural exhibits, endowing traditional culture with new possibilities and imagination. The interweaving of new and old interprets the inherent exhibition spirit, building a bridge between contemporary art and traditional techniques.
Project Information Project Type: Exhibition Design Instructing Sector: Publicity Department of the CPC Guangzhou Liwan District Committee Commission: UCCA Lab Brand: Yongqingfang Design Time: August 2021 Participating Artists: Wei He, Xiaoqing Cui, Noise Temple (Jin Huang, Mian) Participating Intangible Cultural Inheritors: Guangzhou Cake Seal: Zhaoji Yu. Ivory Carving: Minhui Zhang. Guangzhou Embroidery: Min Li, Xingyuan Wang. Guangdong Lion Dance: Weibin Zhao. Lingnan Guqin: Dongxiao Xie. Guangzhou Enamel: Zhifeng Yang. Guangzhou Xiao Flute: Daqiang Guo. Guangzhou Nut Carving: Zhaohong Zeng. Kwon-Glazed Porcelain: Wenmin Chen, Guanghui Tan, Huiling Zhai. Exhibition space design and installation (second-floor section) design: PILLS Studio Principal Designer: Zigeng Wang Design Team: Yingxiao Chen, Shaomin Zhang, Tian Zhou, Yang Lu, Manying Wang UCCA Lab Team Art Director: Yang You Project Supervisor: Weiqi Zhu, Yixuan Wu Project Coordinator: Yanru Wu Curatorial Team: Xueli Liu, Yanru Wu, Liting Zhang, Jing Cheng Project Coordination: Yang Zhang, Jinghui Zhang Project Support: Lingwei Kong, Dan Wu, Xiaoran Fang, Jaime Chu, Ke Wang Construction Team: Guangzhou Qigong Technology Co. Special Thanks: Vanke Southern Regional Commercial Division, Guangzhou Vanke Enterprises Co. Qinghao Xu, Zixuan Zhou, Guanghui Tan, Dongxiao Xie, Weibin Zhao, Zhaohong Zeng