Up/Down: Wang Tiande

Front Lawn, Spencer Art Museum of Art
April 20, 2009 – May 11, 2009 / Residency

This spring, as part of a three-week residency funded by the Freeman Foundation through KU’s Center for East Asian Studies and the William T. Kemper Foundation, Shanghai-based experimental calligrapher Wang Tiande will create a series of original works on the front lawn of the Spencer Museum. Wang’s residency is another step in a larger initiative at the Spencer to create a vibrant International Artists-in-Residence Program that will bring artists from around the world to interact with the broader campus community at KU.

The first part of the residency is a grass installation. The work is based on two Chinese characters: shang andxia. As a concept, shang and xia, which literally mean “up and down,” embody a wide range of contrasting relationships: China and the United States; tradition and modernity; consumer and producer. The dichotomous meaning of these two characters is further explored in the materials of the installation. Using native blue stem grass, the character will grow from a bed of fescue—a common, industrially grown lawn grass. The characters are based on an ancient calligraphic style known as seal script, and have a curvaceous appearance unlike modern Chinese writing. You are invited to drop by during the summer and watch this living installation as it grows and changes.

In contrast to the growth of grass, the second part of the project is a performance involving live sheep and goats that will consume grass in designated sections of the Spencer’s front lawn. On Wednesday April 29, and Thursday, May 7, several professionally tether-trained sheep and goats will spend several hours grazing on the front lawn of the Spencer. The result will be circular, sculpted traces visible from the adjacent Kansas Union. In China the word for sheep, yang, is a homonym of the auspicious xiang. However, more than their traditional significance, these animals are representative of the increasing consumption of natural resources on a global scale. You are invited to come by and interact with the animals.

For the third week of his residency, Wang Tiande will conduct calligraphy workshops with students in the KU Honors Program, Chinese language, art and design, and local high-school students. He will deliver an artist’s talk on Thursday, May 7, at 5:30 PM in the SMA Auditorium, which will be followed by a tea reception on the Spencer’s front lawn.

Selected images