Karel Martens: Re-Production
On Martens’s first trip to China in 2009, he discovered a Chinese lunisolar calendar at a local shop in Chongqing. These calendars are familiar to those born and raised in China before the millennium, as they are often hanging somewhere in a corner of their parents’ and grandparents’ houses. Printed on rough, inexpensive, thin paper, they employ a hybrid timekeeping system that indicates the phases of the Moon and the time of the solar year. Each day is displayed on an individual page that also includes advice, admonitions, and notes on the auspiciousness of each period of the day. Having spent decades capturing and perceiving shapes and images from daily life and incorporating them into his design practice, Martens was fascinated with the unfamiliar diagrams and graphics that appeared in the calendar. Twelve years later, Martens connected the format of the calendar to his study of celestial bodies with the book Uranus.
“I’m interested in making a synthetic image based on an existing fact, not necessarily recognizable as such,” stated Martens. Uranus is a systematic and geometric representation of the seventh planet’s atmosphere. His first Chinese and English bilingual publication, the book was co-published by IS A GALLERY and Roma Publications in 2021.
Karel Martens: Re-Production is Martens’s first site-specific exhibition in China and is produced by IS A GALLERY in co-production with Roma Publications. The book Uranus will arrive at the gallery from the printer as a bound object, then its pages will be removed and arranged in sequence on the gallery’s western wall, creating a site-specific installation of 340 individual images over 21 square meters. The installation will be exhibited from October 15, 10 a.m. to November 15, 5:30 p.m. in 2021 (GMT+8). The installation will respond to the rich and complex design history of the site on which the gallery is located: the Shanghai Printing Technology Research Institute. Established in 1956, the Institute was the birthplace of modern Chinese typographic design and has continued to contribute to the digital development of Chinese fonts.
The exhibition will be distributed in one thousand editions. Martens invites participation in the transformation of the book as an object and the movement of the exhibition through time and space. As a collaborative project, our interest is in providing a fluid space for reconstruction, using it as a place to gather collective knowledge, and observing where and how the exhibition will be carried on by shifts of ownership and context—how it continuously sprouts, develops, disintegrates, and reproduces itself.