Xiao Ma

Recap 2019

January 18, 2020

2019 was the year I got frustrated with “classic” modern and contemporary art, especially abstract expressionism and minimalism. Yes, surely wherever you go, there is a Donald Judd cube. Surely, there is another Dan Flavin’s fluorescent light sculpture nearby. And surely people are taking pictures of of it, in front of it, behind it, whatever.

But isn’t it getting old? Isn’t minimalism, in the age of unrest, tension, complexity, and even anger, fundamentally unsuitable to address these thoughts and emotions? Wouldn’t art need to have a stronger point of view than this neutral, cold, and impartial take? But on the other hand, art may not be art if it is too direct in addressing these issues and may simply become activism. So where is the line?

These artists were right on the line.

Guan Xiao (1983-)

Mesmerizing video artist. Her three-channel videos often put seemingly different scenes together in a way that makes them deeply connected (see picture below [1]).

Guan Xiao

In a way Guan uses “found objects” — digital images and videos found online — and remix them to show you how these found objects from the vastness of unlimited content of the Internet have some kind of weird organization or pattern to them.

Katja Novitskova (1984-)

One of my favorite artists of the year. Similar to Guan Xiao, Katja uses images found online, especially images of cute animals (because they grab so much attention). Images of animals become especially bizarre when animals and human-made technologies intersect. She remixes the images, and often takes them to the physical world (see example below, Pattern of Activation [4]).

Pattern of Activation

Her work also touches the weird contrast of birth and robotics (these are modified robotic baby cradles). I saw it at Hamburger Bahnhof, 2019.

Katja Novitskova

Pauline Curnier Jardin (1980-)

Jardin won Germany’s most prestigious prize for young artists Preis der Nationalgalerie last year. This is the work at again Hamburger Bahnhof, 2019.

Pauline Curnier Jardin

In the dimly-lit “hot flashes forest” lie deflated women bodies, through an opening, then you see the movie “Qu’un Sang Impur” — about bleeding, aging, and desire.


  1. Guan Xiao au Jeu de Paume
  2. Guan Xiao bio
  3. Attention, economies and art: Katja Novitskova at TEDxVaduz
  4. Pattern of Activation
  5. Katja Novitskova at Kumu Art Museum
  6. Pauline Curnier Jardin
  7. Ausstellung Pauline Curnier Jardin 2
  8. Pauline Curnier Jardin’s Refreshing Take on the Ageing Female Body Wins Preis der Nationalgalerie

Views are mine. On Twitter as @infoxiao