The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum presents One Hand Clapping, a group exhibition of newly commissioned works by Cao Fei, Duan Jianyu, Lin Yilin, Wong Ping, and Samson Young. The exhibition is the third of The Robert H. N. Ho Family Foundation Chinese Art Initiative, a research, curatorial, and collections-building program begun in 2013. On view from May 4 through October 21, 2018, One Hand Clapping will be accompanied by a catalogue and public and educational programming.
The artists in One Hand Clapping explore our changing relationship with the future. Produced in both new and traditional mediums—from virtual reality technology to oil on canvas—their commissioned works challenge visions of a global, homogeneous, and technocratic future.
On Tower Level 5, Wong Ping creates a multimedia installation centered on a colorful, racy animated tale that explores the tension between an aging population and the relentless pace of a digital economy; in her paintings and sculptures, Duan Jianyu depicts a surreal, transitory place where the rural meets the urban; and Lin Yilin constructs a virtual-reality simulation featuring a professional basketball star, testing the potential for using technology to inhabit the experience of another.
On Tower Level 7, Cao Fei examines the new realities and potential crisis driven by automation and robotics at some of China’s most advanced storage and distribution facilities, and Samson Young reflects on our obsession with ritual and authenticity through a sonic and sculptural environment of imaginary musical instruments and their digitally engineered sounds.
The exhibition title One Hand Clapping is derived from a koan—riddles used in Zen Buddhist practice to challenge logical reasoning—that asks, “We know the sound of two hands clapping. But what is the sound of one hand clapping?” Emerging from a tradition that originates in China’s Tang period (618–907), the phrase “one hand clapping” encompasses a history of cross-cultural translation and appropriation that continues into the present, from serving as the epigraph to J. D. Salinger’s Nine Stories (1953) to being referenced in the titles of a Cantopop song and an Australian film and in the name of a British band.
In this light, “one hand clapping” becomes a metaphor for the processes by which meaning is fabricated, transmitted, and restated in a globalized world. The image of “one hand clapping” also suggests connotations of solitude and the ability of artists to put forth a singular perspective and to challenge prevailing beliefs, stereotypes, and conventional power structures.