Chinese art collective encourages a collective mindset at the Vancouver Art Gallery’s Offsite

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      Most Vancouverites may think of their fitness regimen as an individual undertaking, but the Vancouver Art Gallery’s latest Offsite installation is encouraging people to consider the possibilities of shared experience through a communal approach to physical exercise. Offsite: Polit-Sheer-Form Office is the 18th installation in the Gallery’s ongoing Offsite public art series located at 1100 West Georgia Street.

      In its first Canadian exhibition, Chinese contemporary art collective Polit-Sheer-Form Office (PSFO) presents a five-piece set of exercise equipment specially designed for Vancouver residents. The installation, entitled Fitness for All, appears against the vinyl text proclamation, “We is the Distinction of I, ” featured on a back wall. The artists’ decree suggests that establishing a more collective self-awareness fosters inclusivity and collaboration. But to truly appreciate the work requires an understanding of the group’s history.

      PSFO was founded in 2005 by artists Hong Hao, Xiao Yu, Song Dong, and Liu Jianhua, and curator/critic Leng Lin. Born in the 1960s and coming of age during China’s period of Culture Revolution (1964–1974), the artists represent a generation that bore witness to China’s shift from a nation upholding Communism as both its economic and political order, to one of capitalist ideals and Communist governance.

      United by the nostalgia and memories of communal gatherings, PFSO’s multidisciplinary projects address the idea of “we” in a “me” world.  Activities focus on talking, traveling, eating, reading, and playing together to form the basis of the collective’s commentary on political, cultural, and spiritual life in twenty first-century China.  

      At Offsite, Fitness for All evokes campaigns across the People’s Republic of China aimed at motivating society to embrace their health. In the early 2000s, the government began to install exercise equipment in public parks throughout the country, and since then, this fitness apparatus has been incorporated into the daily regimen of millions of people.

      Acting as both contemporary sculpture and an outdoor gymnasium, Fitness for All welcomes audience participation while providing space and opportunity for collective gatherings with friends, visitors, and passersby. 

      “Vancouver is widely known as a city with an active, health-conscious community, but for many, exercise is an activity spent alone,” says Kathleen Bartels, director of the Vancouver Art Gallery.

      “Presenting a version of Fitness for All in Vancouver, Polit-Sheer-Form Office invites the public to consider perspectives of collectivity and individuality through the action of working out together. This installation is a symbol for the importance of shared experiences in supporting a community’s well-being.”

      Offsite: Polit-Sheer-Form Office is organized by the Vancouver Art Gallery's Institute of Asian Art and curated by Associate Curator of Asian Art Diana Freundl.  The Offsite series presents an innovative program of temporary projects by local and international contemporary artists whose works consider the site-specific potential of art within the public realm and respond to the changing social and cultural conditions of our contemporary world.

      Offsite: Polit-Sheer-Form-Office is at the Vancouver Art Gallery’s Offsite (1100 West Georgia Street) until March 31, 2019.