Yuz Museum

Making it Rain with Random International

By Lisa Movius

Random International, Rain Room, installation view at the Yuz Museum, 2018, Courtesy of the artist and the Yuz Museum, Photo: Qing Wang

The Most Popular Exhibition in China

Following their massively popular debut with Rain Room in 2015, Random International has returned to China, and to Shanghai’s Yuz Museum, with a full solo exhibition of video and interactive installations. Hannes Koch and Florian Ortkrass, principals of the London- and Berlin-based collective, describe the exhibition as their “real Asia debut, in a way” due to the context that the broader selection of works provides.

Everything & Nothing includes the world premiere of Turnstiles, a collection of old-school crowd-control turnstiles that, slightly rejigged in their shape and movement, invite rebellion and play rather than direction and control. Situated outside Rain Room, they allude to the long queues this work has attracted in New York, London, Los Angeles as well as Shanghai. A larger commission is slated to be installed on London’s Embankment next year.

Random International, Small Study for FAR, installation view at the Yuz Museum, 2016, Courtesy of the artist and the Yuz Museum, Photo: Qing Wang

Turnstiles is among several works that invite and engage with human motion. Small Study / I (FAR), 2016, which resulted from Random International’s 2010 collaboration with UK choreographer Wayne McGregor, reconfigures human motion as an optical interplay of light and shadow. Born out of this same partnership is 2016’s Self and Other, a large glass and light sculpture that transforms viewers’ moving reflections into dots of light, creating a distorted almost-mirror.

Engaging Audiences with Interactive Installations

Audience interaction and interpretation are integral to Random International’s work, but the range of human behavior has remained fairly consistent across cultures, they say. However, adds Koch: “Westerners tend to experience Rain Room very individualistically, which is how it was designed. But last time, a lot of Chinese visitors would link arms and cross it in groups, something the sensors don’t react to as well.”

Everything & Nothing, which is named after a 2016 video of a steamroller crushing granite as a symbol of industrialisation, harks back to Random International’s origins with the first showing in six years of its 2005 inaugural work, Temporary Graffiti. Faux spray paint cans, complete with weighted shakers, let audiences project light instead of paint onto a treated green wall, leaving glowing marks that gradually fade.

Random International, Everything & Nothing, installation view at the Museum of Science and Industry, Manchester, 2016, Courtesy of the artist

The Yuz Museum’s Rain Room, the largest edition of the work at 150 sq m, resumes its star position on the floor of the converted former airplane factory. While Everything & Nothing runs until 14 October, Rain Room will remain up for one to two years, says a museum spokeswoman. Initial intentions to tour Rain Room around China have been hindered by the logistical challenge of its size and complex installation. Meanwhile dozens of knock-off rain installations have sprung up around China, drawing upon the popularity of the original. “We want to stress that this is the only Rain Room in China,” says Koch. However, it is no longer the sole authentic one in Asia: a permanent Rain Room will open in Sharjah the following week, supported by the Sharjah Art Foundation.

Yuz Museum Shanghai was founded in 2014 by Indonesian-Chinese entrepreneur Budi Tek, who previously established a Yuz Museum in Jakarta in 2008. In March, Tek announced he had signed a memorandum of understanding with California’s Los Angeles County Museum of Art to establish a joint foundation to own and oversee his collection and collaborate on exhibitions. For more on their forthcoming partnership, read the transcript of 'The Future of the Museum', a recent panel discussion hosted by Art Agency, Partners in Hong Kong.

Random International: Everything & Nothing, Yuz Museum, Shanghai, through 14 October

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