Open Wall Project at 53rd Venice Biennale 2009

Venice Biennale

July 20, 2009

Open Wall Project

Accessible from Giardini Biennale Entrance,
at La Certosa

Visual artist Shan Shan Sheng’s Open Wall (2009) is a large-scale glass installation, restaging a single section of the Great Wall into a large scale outdoor work along Venice’s historic Grand Canal. Sheng’s Open Wall project captures an interval of China’s Great Wall, translating the historic structure as a temporary zone of glass architecture. Sheng’s installation engages in dialogue with this period of relative openness in contemporary China, engaging this dynamic and pivotal moment in history. Open Wall is accessible from the Venice Biennale 2009 Giardini Entrance.

A temporary work, Open Wall reconstructs a moment of China’s Great Wall as an assemblage of glass bricks. The glass bricks become a kind of cultural currency, to be distributed and redistributed in the process of installation. Open Wall suggests the possibility of China’s contemporary moment, opening the culture to the global economy and an unprecedented exchange of ideas. Sheng’s Open Wall is an uncanny, iridescent sculpture, indicating a threshold of both transparency and opacity, as a critical symbol of China’s intersection with Western culture. Easily dissembled and reassembled, Sheng’s Open Wall evokes a moment of flux and mutual consumption. Open Wall consists of 2,200 glass bricks, corresponding to the 2,200 years of the Great Wall’s construction. Sheng reimagines the Great Wall as a temporary pavilion of stacked glass; her installation evokes the exquisite yet transitory flux of globalized time.

Open Wall is an example of Shan Shan Sheng’s fascination with architecture, material, national memory, and the perception of time. China’s historic Great Wall was originally built as a series of discontinuous, autonomous zones. Each section corresponds to a dynastic phase. As a discontinuous sequence of materials and styles, the Great Wall is distributed along 6400 km (4,000 miles).

Renowned for her large-scale paintings and suspension sculptures in Shanghai, Hong Kong, and Beijing, Sheng’s conceptual art installations activate and transform the reading of traditional Chinese motifs and sites of memory. As a visual artist based in San Francisco and Shanghai, Sheng’s works are frequently concerned with heightening viewer experience, and creating a ritual atmosphere between history and the present moment.

Sheng’s Open Wall project is part of the Venice Biennale’s La Città Ideale at La Certosa Island from June 6 to October 25 2009. The exhibition introduces a “new world” on the Certosa Island, including the installation work of Shan Shan Sheng, Vinicio Momoli, Pino Castegnam, Riccardo Liccata, and Claire Becker.

OPEN WALL is sponsored by: AIAP – Associazione Internazionale Arti Plastiche – UNESCO