Jun Yang

“We grew up believing we are the center of the world, seeing the world through the eyes we have, understanding the world through the mind and one view only – one understanding. We – I?“

The film The Center of the World (2012), which is being show in ra’mien bar as part of this exhibition, is in many respects programmatic for Jun Yang’s work: against the backdrop of growing individualization in China, the film relates “we” and “I”, society, and the individual to each other. It speaks not only of the compulsion for individual success, and social pressure, and hope, but also disillusionment, leading to considerations of exiting a highly competitive system of seperation.

“We” and “I” also describes the arc of tension in Yang’s work. His films, objects, installations, and projects revolve around individual and collective identities that are in latent conflict: in and with themselves, as well as with their environment. Loss, memory, forgetting, and dreams of a better future are addressed in Yang’s early films, such as coming home – daily structures of Life (2000) and Camouflage – LOOK like them – TALK like them (2002–2004), and in the trilogy: A Short-Story on Forgetting and Remembering (2007); Norwegian Woods (2008) and Seoul Fiction (2010), which is screened on two evenings in Top Kino on the occasion of the solo exhibition. The films, which are related both in content and form, show the respective protagonists in transitory situations and describe personal and social changes. In particular, China / Taiwan and Korea—as societies that have rapidly transformed in a relatively short time—are repeatedly the focus of Yang’s interest.

The hope for a better life, the belief in utopian promises, the relationship between ideal and real life—with all the resulting frictions—also play an important role in the work series Paris Syndrome. In the exhibition at Galerie Martin Janda, parts of the series are being shown and reformatted. The title Paris Syndrome refers to a trauma experienced by female Japanese tourists, who are so disappointed by their first visit to Paris that they become ill. Yang’s series takes as its point of departure the longing for an ideal and perfect world fed by dream images, the contrast to the respective realities of life, and the attempts to bridge this gap. Neither plants, materials, furniture, nor whole architectures are what they seem to be at first glance: they are “fakes” (imitations), which on closer inspection, however, develop a stand-alone quality.

The question of how and where individual ideas and social agendas collide and how and where they can meet connect all of Yang’s projects. Thus, the narrative in the film mentioned above,
The Center of the World, is not limited to the individual story of the protagonist, but is connected to political struggles in Greece, the USA, and scenes of unrest in China (Xinjiang)—scenes in which control fails and ruptures in the social fabric emerge. The meeting of social agendas and individual interests is particularly evident in a number of Yang’s projects in public space—proposal for a public space – a cinema, Sharjah (2012) or St. Reinoldi Church Dortmund European Capital of Culture Ruhr 2010— where the acceptance of heterogeneity and difference forms the basis for the creation of a common area, even if it is still so temporary.

Playing an important role in this context is his contribution to the Taipei Biennale 2008,
a contemporary art centre, taipei (a proposal), which ultimately led to the establishment of the Taipei Contemporary Art Center. With this project, Yang succeeded in gaining different, even rival representatives of Taiwanese art and activist scene for a multi-year, joint reflection on a possible contemporary art center.

With ra’mien (2002), ra’mien bar (2002), ra’an (2003), and ra’mien go (2010), Yang has once again created—in partial collaboration with the architect Sophie Thalbauer—a spatial framework that provokes intercultural interaction. In orientation, furnishings, and even the menus, different traditions (ranging from Viennese Modernism, to Asian street kitchens and American fast food) and functions (restaurant, bar, fast food joint) meet. In the process, strictly simple and economical architectural settings and designs stand in contrast to traditional interiors, whose seemingly stereotypical appearing motifs, shapes, and colors—as in the ra’mien bar—are recontextualized. The individual elements do not merge; they remain distinct and interact with each other in dialogue, and with the cultural expectations and assumptions of the guests. A poster series in Galerie Martin Janda features these projects in a presentation developed by Yang especially for the exhibition.

That the gallery’s exhibition extends to Top Kino and the ra’mien bar is consistent in several respects: film and cinema are important reference points for Yang, the ra’mien bar was designed by him; moreover, in all of these places artistic and commercial interests exist side by side. Especially the latter aspect—the relationship between art and business—has moved to the foreground of Yang’s artistic work in recent years. In both in the aforementioned restaurant projects as well as in Café Paris Syndrom (2007–2010), Hotel Paris Syndrom (since 2010), and the gfzk garten (2006–2011)—all at Galerie für Zeitgenössische Kunst Leipzig—different notions of profit, profitability, functionality, and efficiency slide into each other and open up a discourse.

Jun Yang has worked with Galerie Martin Janda since 1998. It is his Viennese gallery, in addition to Vitamin Creative Space in Guangzhou / Beijing and ShugoArts in Tokyo. To a large extent, the choice of galleries reflects his biography: born in China and brought up in Vienna, today Yang divides his time between Vienna, Taipei, and Yokohama. His works include film, installations, performances and projects in public space. Yang is co-founder of the Taipei Contemporary Art Center. With his brother Yang Tie and friend Dong Ngo, he founded the restaurant and bar ra’mien (2002), and the fast food chain ra’mien go (2012) in Vienna. Recently, mitte Café and Gyoza Brothers were also opened in Vienna.

Jun Yang is the 25th Msgr. Otto Mauer award winner (2005). Internationally, he has participated in several biennials (Manifesta 2002, Venice 2005, Liverpool 2006, Taipei 2008, and Gwangju 2012).

The Monograph Project is being published on the occasion of the exhibition at Galerie Martin Janda. In this first monograph by Jun Yang, edited by Barbara Steiner and designed by Oliver Klimpel, biographical writing becomes the subject of investigation. The monograph is being published in two parts, with three volumes each in 2015 and 2017.

Barbara Steiner