The JN Projects Blog

Wang Jianwei on the Autonomy of Tools

In 2018, Wang Jianwei donated an f-clamp to the White Rabbit Collection Archive, explaining that this object was a tool that he had used in the process of creating the work Dirty Substance 1, held in the White Rabbit Collection. 

Top image - above: F-clamp used by Wang Jianwei to create his work Dirty Substance 1 (2015).

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Wang Jianwei, Dirty Substance 1 (2015), MDF, steel, paint, 205 x 270 x 127 cm,
White Rabbit Collection Sydney

Dirty Substance 1 is a two-metre-tall sculptural installation composed of laminated MDF forms mounted with metal plates. Vices grip these metal plates, holding the various MDF shapes in place. In an interview with Luise Guest, Manager of Research for the White Rabbit Collection, Wang Jianwei described the work as the product of his realisation that “technology has its own autonomous agency.” Working with his assistants in the studio, Wang Jianwei began to reconsider his assumptions that “people control tools” and that it was the artist who “successfully realised the artwork.” He felt that he had neglected the importance of materials in his previous installation, film and painting work, overlooking how “people, materials, and the artist” were all integral to the production of the artwork. 

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Wang Jianwei, Dirty Substance 1 (2015), detail, MDF, steel, paint, 205 x 270 x 127 cm,
White Rabbit Collection Sydney

According to Wang Jianwei, tools shape the parameters of the artist’s practice: he claims that “a new tool permits you to create new possibilities.” Wang described the role of technology in the creative process using the analogy of the steam engine and the train, explaining that “the steam engine allowed humans to create the train, permitting people to travel greater distances. Art is the same; a new tool or a new technology has the possibility of continuously releasing you from the limitations of your own body.” The exposed clamps that hold together the various sections of Dirty Substance 1 reveal the function of these tools as structural components supporting the artwork. Dirty Substance 1 brings the functional elements of the installation to the surface, as if stripping sculpture down to its most basic elements and making its armature visible. As a tool used to create the Dirty Substance 1, Wang Jianwei’s f-clamp is a fitting complement to the artwork itself.

The Wang Jianwei Artist File was compiled by the White Rabbit Collection Research Team in 2018. The file contains material donated by the artist such as this tool, and material produced by the White Rabbit collection, including an interview recorded in Beijing in 2018.

 Click here for more information about the artist.

 

 

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