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February 14th, 2007 RICHARD SPEER | Visual Arts
 

Weihong at Ogle

Performance artist/photographer Weihong makes a case for equanimi-tea.

     
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Chinese-born artist Weihong combines computer graphics, Eastern philosophy and an ancient tea ceremony in her interactive photography installation at Ogle. In 255-0+Tea, Weihong riffs on the RGB color spectrum used in computer monitors, in which zero represents black and 255 white, with all the hues of the rainbow falling in between. She sees a connection between this black/white division and the black-and-white yin/yang symbol long associated with ancient Chinese metaphysics. Building on this connection, the artist has created a stage set with one backdrop white, the other black. Since 2002—in cities as diverse as Milan, New York City, Houston and Dali, China—she has invited gallery-goers into this installation, serving them Taiwanese tea from black-and-white cups and sesame crackers off a black-and-white platter upon a black-and-white table. There's a theme going on here, get it?

During the course of sipping and chatting, she engages guests in an ongoing discussion about the nature of balance and equanimity. Before the guests depart, Weihong photographs each one, later posting the photos on her website, weihong.org, and hanging prints in future shows. Luminaries such as Giorgio Armani have sat with the artist, as have hundreds of people whose names aren't famous but who, the artist says, are every bit as fascinating. These photos, many of which line Ogle's walls, are well-executed, awash in natural light and capturing the personalities of each subject with a thoughtfulness that only portraiture can convey.

Weihong is quick to correct the impressions of hopelessly Western-minded tea drinkers like myself. "I like the whole opposition-of-dichotomies thing," I told her on opening night. "It's not about extremes," she said, raising her finger, "it's about the change that happens in between." Duly noted. In today's polarized political climate, we would do well to take this distinction to heart. French philosopher Jean Baudrillard foresaw our times in his 1983 Fatal Strategies: "The world is not dialectical," he wrote, "it is sworn to extremes, sworn not to equilibrium but to radical antagonism." Weihong has devised a deceptively simple interactive experience to remind us of the expansive middle ground in which the real marrow of life resides. Synthesis lies between thesis and antithesis—which is why the medium is happy, the Mean is Golden, and compromise is an art. Mr. Bush should stop in and sit and sip.

—RICHARD SPEER.


Weihong invites you to join her for tea at Ogle between 4 and 6 pm Tuesday-Saturday, until the show ends Feb. 24. 310 NW Broadway, 227-4333.
 
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