Red Chairs and Chinese Go(o)ds

Hannes Schmid - Smiling Gecko

What is the connection between red plastic chairs and a street opera in Singapore, and what do these two have in common with the principle of the Shanzhai and with China as a world and economic power?

These questions and issues are addressed by the multimedia installation project of Swiss photo artist Hannes Schmid, Red Chairs and Chinese Go(o)ds, hosted by the UBS Wolfsberg Conference Center. Having evolved from the artist’s photographic series, For Gods Only (1998-2011), the installation documents the last staging of a now discontinued Chinese street opera in Singapore: a ritual production staged by the Kim Eng Teochew ensemble in front of empty, red plastic chairs. These chairs represent the Gods, which were traditionally the sole addressees and allowed spectators of this work. Kept in the red color symbolizing good luck and fortune, these chairs placed in the streets of Singapore incorporated the presence of invisible Gods. Additionally, they also refer to China as a global economic power fundamentally owing its rapid development to the production and export of cheap products. This production takes place on the basis of the well-established Chinese principle of Shanzhai, i.e. copying. The plastic chairs, which after the opera’s cessation likewise have come to stand for the continuing loss of old cultural practice in East Asia, simultaneously serve as an ecological memorial reminding us of the importance of a careful handling of global resources. In 2015, these chairs will be incorporated as part of another cultural and artistic project by Hannes Schmid, this time in China.

The exhibition at Wolfsberg opened on April 1st and ended 11th july 2014. There will be an accompanying program about China as a cultural, artistic, and economic power, featuring tours and talks with the artist.