Guggenheim Museum: Tales of Our Times


02/16/17 - A group of Chinese artists focus on the social and political tensions around the world in this new exhibition at the Guggenheim Museum in New York. They explore subjects related to exploitation, migration, urbanization, inclusion and exclusion, as also the contradictions of technological developments. The stories in this exhibition deal with the globalized and connected world, but also with the historial and territorial fractures. The aim of these artists is to come up with new ways to create a different culture. 
The name of this exhibition comes from the book Gu Shi Xin Bian ("Old Tales Retold") that Lu Xun wrote in 1936. There, the Chinese writer and social activist reinvented traditional legends to criticize the social conditions of his country and invented new paradigms for an imaginary and different culture.
We will only post about the kafkaesque installation by Sun Yuan (1972) and Peng Yu (1974): Can’t Help Myself (2016). The main element is a robot with sensors and a software located behind acrylic walls. The robot can sense the movement of the viscous and red liquid that surrounds it. When its sensors detect that the fluid has spilled out of its radius, the frenetic squeegee arm "puts" it back into place, leaving marks on the floor and splatters on the walls.
Can’t Help Myself, by Sun Yuan & Peng Yu (2016)
Materials: industrial robot “Kuka”, stainless steel and rubber, colored water, software with visual recognition sensors, acrylic walls.
These artists, as the card explains, are keen to use black humor in their creations. The repetitive actions of this robot are like an absurd never-ending dance, focusing on the Sisyphean point of view of contemporary issues, like the refugees. However, the big bloody lagoon around the robot represents the violence in certain countries, specially those with border conflicts. The robot portrays the use of technology as monitor and controller of our reality.
This monster is located on the 5th floor, close to the golden toilet by Maurizio Catelán. They are two experiences that attract visitors all the time. They both reflect two very updated situations. The first, the dramatic reality of the refugees and wars, and the other, less violent, one of the characteristics of Contemporary Art: the artwork is completed when the visitor participates. 

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Liliana Wrobel

Production & Translation

Carla Mitrani