An installation / performance by Ana Terry & Don Hunter, Beijing, China, 2010
Mynah – Artists Statement Text by : Ana Terry & Don Hunter Translation by : Julia Fu
Mynah – Artists Statement Text by : Ana Terry & Don Hunter Translation by : Julia Fu
Beijing has undergone massive urban transformation over the last 100 years, emerging out of this change are the 798 and Caochangdi Arts Dis- tricts. These environments offer contemporary experimental art spaces, commercial galleries, studio spaces and factories all plying their trade in grandiose constructivist factory buildings redolent with the echoes of mass production and the socialist fervour of human industry. Rumours abound that these art spaces may be redeveloped by the Government. Should this occur, there is a strong possibility that the arts industry will seek another ‘undeveloped’ district on the margins of Beijing to nest. Again, ironically, these spaces could potentially be co-opted by future government initiatives. Even if the Government does not redevelop 798 and Caochangdi Districts, inflationary pressure accompanying the rapid expansion of the arts industry will see some arts spaces moving on or simply closing their doors.
In response to this conundrum we have adopted the mynah bird as metaphor for our predatory propensity as humans to consume and produce sometimes at the expense of others in our fervour to create and expand our territories. The mynah bird’s sharp eye seeks and covets shiny objects as it steals other birds’ nests leaving its victims displaced. As with the audiences who visit the galleries, we are complicit in this process – it is a given that artists, while commentators of these issues, are not exempt from the cycle of consumption and production. As visiting artists in China we have sought this fertile artistic environment as both consumers and producers within and of these spaces. Like the Mynah bird, we as itinerant artists, have taken over and nested, albeit temporarily here in China, leaving the detritus of our consumption and production in our wake.
‘Mynah’ is an exploration of this process. The final work becomes an ironic altar piece to these processes. As the birds consume the sculpted environment and excrete their waste, we ask do we as both producers and consumers eventually, like the Mynah eventually “shit in our own nests”?
‘Mynah’ is a part of a larger body of work currently being produced by New Zealand artists Ana Terry and Don Hunter (aka Number 8 Col- lective) through the Platform China residency program supported by Asia New Zealand Foundation and Creative New Zealand.
The Number 8 Collective was born out of a recognition of a strong artistic dialogue between Don Hunter and Ana Terry, not through the simi- larity of their respective practices, but through the differences. Their often diverse ideological and conceptual approaches to a subject matter enables a rich ground for robust collaborative projects to emerge from. Ana and Don have been awarded two collaborative residencies, presented numer- ous public seminars, many curatorial projects, collaborative exhibitions and currently are establishing a new art project space.
《八哥》 – 艺术家作品简述
文章：安娜•泰瑞 & 多恩•亨特
特别鸣谢给予我们支持和技术帮助的以下员： 孙宁, 陈海涛, 付朗, 荷心, 刘楠, 袁嘉敏, 白海龙, 产金龙。
'In Ana Terry and Don Hunter’s most recent creative collaboration we are presented with the dynamic play between a sculptured structure of wafer biscuits and the consumptive activities of three live Mynah birds, as they gradually destroy their edible environment and leave a black calligraphy of excreted waste. Rich in metaphors and engaging to watch, this performative installation is being exhibited during the New Zealand artists’ 2-month residency at Platform China in Beijing, and is a part of a larger body of work that investigates creative practice and its relationship to the processes of cultural gentrification.
Shown within the context of Beijing, Mynah offers reflection upon the tenuous nature of studios and artist run initiatives in this city, as they are ‘cannibalised’ by their success and driven in a cyclical process that sees artists seeking spaces further out into the make-shift hutongs and semi-industrial boroughs of the city, which are subsequently developed as commercial gallery districts and annexed by larger and more powerful interests. The Mynah, a highly adaptive, nest-stealing, omnivorous bird that is considered an invasive species outside of its native territories, acts as an apt metaphor for what the artist’s see as “our predatory propensity as humans to consume and produce … at the expense of others in our fervour to create and expand our territories”1. As artist’s themselves, producing work in a prominent gallery that may soon be forced out of its current location to seek a new ‘nest’, Terry and Hunter acknowledge their implication in this process in a refreshingly ironic and self-reflexive manner.
By using the bird’s strange dance and sporadic feasting as an allegory for human activity and will, Mynah offers far more than a didactic critique on the processes of cultural production and consumption. It is comical and curious, and completely engrossing to watch. As much as the glass vitrine containing the Mynah birds and their wafer urban space may appear as a scientific or musicological display, there is much that has been left to chance and the release of the birds into this space was entirely unrehearsed. We are reminded that there is nothing inevitable in the processes that dictate the structure and restructuring of the cultural sphere, yet as we see with the Mynah bird’s rapid consumption of the wafer structure, certainly there are qualities and behaviours innate to the Mynah – or moreover to our to our own human selves – that shape a creature’s response to the environment it inhabits.
Mynah alludes not only to a cyclical deterritorialisation and reterritorialisation of space within the cultural arena but refers also to the much larger idea of cyclic creation/destruction. As an archetypal theme underpinning many of the world’s mythologies and religious narratives, we can read the crumbling wafer tower reaching to the limits of the glass enclosure as a kind of Tower of Babel, at once symbolising our desire for knowledge – through the attempted construction of a utopic and unifying structure – and our inherently flawed aspirations in the destruction of this edifice.
Held within the spot-lit glass case and hemmed around the base by thick red velvet, Mynah is presented to us like an act of Vaudevillian 2 theatre; a small segment of consumptive entertainment (or biblical fable) presented as a living diorama by the performing animals. The sense of theatricality is heightened by the bird masques hung on the surrounding walls and the long black ribbons that dangle from the sides of the masques – are we being invited to wear these articles of costume and further participate in the strange ritual taking place? Long, sharp beaks jut out from the masques and point towards the spectacle in the centre of the room, and our departure from the space is marked by the closing of dark, ceiling-length curtains.
Terry and Hunter have been deliberate in the ambiguous design of their wafer structure; it is malleable to both the sharp beaks of the Mynahs and to our ability to interpret its function and nature. The architecture is partial – yet we are unsure if it is in a state of abandoned completion or post-use ruin. As proclaimed ‘itinerant artists’, temporarily residing in Beijing, Terry and Hunter have observed the effects of massive and uneven urban transformation that is taking place in this city. Unfathomably large high-rise developments grow next to tangled hutongs that have been built by a growing workforce of rural migrants from the detritus of dismantled neighbourhoods. Beijing is a city in flux, and the dizzying rapidity of change here cannot help but affect those who visit and move through the city’s spaces. As witnesses to Beijng’s unceasing cycle of creation and destruction, Terry and Hunter have made Mynah as a reflection upon urban/cultural transformation, and furthermore as a way of understanding their own role in this process as creative practioners.
1. Taken from the artists’ statement.
2. Vaudeville was a theatrical genre of variety entertainment in North America from the early 1880s until the early 1930s. The acts often included performing animals, dancers, magicians and dime museums.'
Erin Coates is an artist, freelance writer and curator based in Perth, Western Australia. Coates recently returned from a 6-month period in Beijing, where she undertook an artist’s residency at Red Gate Gallery and researched Chinese video art for a forthcoming curatorial project.
Special thanks for support and technical assistance: Natalie Sun, Chen Haitao, Julia Fu, Claudia He, Liu Nan, Carmen Yuan, Bai Hailong, Chan Jinlong.