On our cover this month you’ll see an image that might not make sense at first. From a corner, our photographer—Shanghai artist Song Tao—captures the workshop in which sculptor Zhan Wang’s stainless steel scholar’s rocks come to life. Under his direction, a team of highly skilled workers bring the unlikely objects into existence, first hammering out shapes against existing stones, then welding them together, then buffing and polishing until the sculpture becomes seamless and shiny. If you look closely at the rock-in-progress, you can see that trademark sheen just beginning to emerge.
This is a state we at LEAP can relate to: the past two months have given us time to refine our process and product, continuing to ask ourselves the key question of what it means to make an international contemporary art magazine in, for and about China. The mass of our magazine, in all its contoured complexity, is there; what remains to us now is the crucial and no less difficult task of making it shine.
Appropriately, then, our second issue revolves around the question of what it means to make things. Our cover package asks this question directly, taking the almost comically overdetermined site of the Chinese factory not as a means to an end but as a realm in its own right. While the question of production has become a commonplace in art criticism over the past three years, we attempt here to approach it from a less polemical position, interested less in questions of authorship or social relations than in the compelling stories behind these charged sites. If we can conclude anything from these investigations, it might be that a very special power lies with the people who actually do the work.
The rest of the issue does not stray far from this mark, first with an in-depth look at some of the art made for the upcoming World Expo. Director Tian Gebing talks about making a work of theater on a site far from home. Our portfolio recalls a time sixteen years ago in which a daily newspaper offered a rare forum for artists to exhibit far-fetched proposals for fabricating new domestic spaces. We also introduce new elements, chiefly an ongoing collaboration with the fine folks at the Asia Art Archive in Hong Kong, who have amassed a remarkable well of interviews with key figures from the 1980s. Up front, you’ll notice new design elements and some new columns, including “Leapt,” which looks at lesser known moments and movements in the ongoing story of advanced art in China.
From the window of the Shanghai hotel where we stay during the final phase of making our magazine, one can see the still unfinished World Expo Garden stretching out toward the banks of the Huangpu. There are just forty days left until the world descends on the city, expecting something great. Sure, there is a lot of work still to be done, and not long to go. But our experience tells us that in China, in 2010, things have a way of coming together just in time.
Shanghai, March 22, 2010