Remai Modern premieres new installation by New York artist Paul Chan

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Remai Modern premieres new installation by New York artist Paul Chan
Installation view, Paul Chan, Bathers at Night, Remai Modern, Saskatoon, 2018. Photo: Blaine Campbell.

SASKATOON.- On May 11, 2018 Remai Modern premiered a new work by New York-based artist Paul Chan, winner of the 2014 Hugo Boss Prize. Paul Chan: Bathers at Night is the largest and most complex installation of his “breathers” sculptures to date.

"Debuting new work is always very exciting. Paul Chan is an extraordinary artist who combines historical and philosophical reference points, but whose work maintains a playful dose of absurdity and paradox,” said Gregory Burke, Remai Modern Executive Director & CEO and the exhibition’s curator. “His exhibition speaks to Remai Modern’s potential as a generator for contemporary art and ideas. We want the museum to be a place where artists and audiences alike can realize and encounter things for the first time.”

Installed in Remai Modern’s Connect Gallery, the breathers are sculptural works that act like moving images. Each breather is composed of a fabric body, designed by Chan and attached to one or more specially modified fans. Incorporating techniques that combine fashion, drawing and physics, the artist directs the breathers’ movements through the manipulation of their internal architectures, directing airflow and pressure from the fans to create different types of motion. The way they are shaped and sewn means the breathers can be choreographed in ways unlike anything Chan has created to date. They are physical animations—images moving in all three dimensions.

The motif of the bather has fascinated artists throughout history. In the 19th and early 20th centuries, artists like Paul Cézanne and Henri Matisse took up this motif to express evolving notions about the body, one’s relationship to nature, and how longing for the new (in art) creates a broader understanding of what it means to live with or against societal changes. Chan takes up this age-old subject to renew the constellation of themes that the bather embodies in and for the 21st century. The animated and abstract forms in Bathers at Night call up a range of conflicting associations, such as leisure and survival, privacy and evasion, and freedom and marginality. Perhaps most of all, the evoke the pleasure and thrill of swimming at night, under soft moonlight.

An interdisciplinary artist, activist, writer and publisher, Chan’s work engages with fundamental themes including politics, poetry, war and death. He is known for his presentation of dualities—violence and joy, utopia and apocalypse, the Bible and the Marquis de Sade, Samuel Beckett and hip-hop.

Paul Chan
Chan (born 1973) was born in Hong Kong, raised in Nebraska and now lives in New York. His work has been exhibited widely in many international group shows and solo exhibitions, including at documenta 13, Kassel (2012); Making Worlds, 53rd Venice Biennale (2009); 16th Biennale of Sydney (2008); 10th International Istanbul Biennial (2007); and the Whitney Biennial at the Whitney Museum of Art, New York (2006). Chan is the winner of the 2014 Hugo Boss Prize, a biennial award that honours artists who have made a visionary contribution to contemporary art.

In 2002, Chan was a part of Voices in the Wilderness, an American aid group that broke U.S. sanctions and federal law by working in Baghdad before the U.S. invasion and occupation. In 2004, he garnered police attention for The People's Guide to the Republican National Convention, a free map distributed throughout New York to help protesters to get in or out of the way of the RNC. In 2007, Chan collaborated with the Classical Theatre of Harlem and Creative Time to produce a site-specific outdoor presentation of Samuel Beckett’s play Waiting for Godot in New Orleans. In recent years, Chan has focused on running Badlands Unlimited, a subversive and experimental publishing house that embraces the dissolving distinctions between books, files, and artworks.

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