NINA YUEN, Clean, 2006, single-channel video, 4 min 11 sec. Courtesy Lombard-Freid Projects, New York.

LEE MINGWEI, The Servers, 2011, six dinner plates with handmade wooden box. Courtesy Lombard-Freid Projects, New York.

Home Where

Lombard-Freid Projects
USA New Zealand China Hong Kong Iraq

For its 2012 summer show, Lombard-Freid Projects is presenting the group exhibition “Home Where?,” which features artists’ interpretations of domesticity and everyday life. Seventeen artists, including Cao Fei, Lee Kit, Lee Mingwei, Michael Rakowitz, Mounir Fatmi and Michael Stevenson, explore their personal notions of “home,” through paintings, photography, video, sculpture and a variety of mixed media.

In one corner of the gallery is a mock lounge setup comprising a sofa and floor rug, facing a television screen mounted on the wall. The screen shows two videos—one by Chinese multimedia artist Cao Fei and the other by American video artist Nina Yuen. Cao’s Milkman (2005) follows a day in the life of a milkman in China’s Guangdong province, and is a pseudo-documentary fiction, exploring the mundane realities and escapist fantasies of the working class in China. The pace is a lot quicker in Yuen’s Clean (2006), in which the artist narrates a series of quirky personal hygiene methods in a stream of consciousness, as she is seen performing them dutifully, one after another, in the video. “Instead of using soap, she stepped into a plastic bag filled with suds,” says the somber voiceover, as the artist, crouching in the nude, pulls a big plastic bag full of foam over her head. The video is an intriguing mixture of seriousness and absurdity, and is perhaps a satirical take on the great lengths to which people go in the pursuit of health and beauty.

Underneath this screen showing Cao’s and Yuen’s works is a row of colorful VHS casette tape cases lined up on the floor, like a personal collection displayed in a living room. Entitled Box of Videotape Covers (1995), it is a work by New Zealand artist Michael Stevenson. At first glance, the low-quality printed labels on their spines seem to suggest that they are bootleg or self-produced videos and films. Yet looking closer at the titles—some of which includePortrait of the Artist as a Tax Evader,” “Room with a Poo” and “I Was Shortlisted for the 10th Biennale of Sydney”—it is not immediately evident whether or not they are actual films or fake, farcical titles. Viewers enjoy a moment of figuring out (or, in the case of this writer, wishing for) the videos’ authenticity.

New York-based Taiwanese artist Lee Mingwei’s The Servers (2011), comprises a set of plates with a series of instructions printed on their surface. For this exhibition, four out of six plates were on display, placed on top of a dining table along with an empty bottle of wine, and accompanied by four wooden, folding chairs. The plates are clean and empty, but a cloth covering the table is littered with various food stains. With no accompanying explanation or wall text, one is left to wonder whether or not the installation involved an actual dining experience at some point. Were there participants who discussed the requests made by each of their plates—such as “Please tell us something beautiful about your parents”—as they ate and drank together? The allusion to audience participation hints at the signature characteristic of Lee’s practice, which includes interactive installations in which the artist invites viewers to be co-creators in his often playful projects.

The showcase of works from Lombard-Freid’s roster of artists in “Home Where?” range from straightforward to nuanced to conceptual, in their multifaceted interpretation of “home.” Explorations of the theme are not limited to one’s home or family, but also include notions of cultural and social identity—which, through the exhibition’s selection of international artists, present “home” as something endlessly varied and intriguing.