Reconstruction 9.2 (2009)

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Simon Leung Squatting, Waiting / Kim Paice



Born in Hong Kong and raised there and in Northern California, Simon Leung is an accomplished intellectual—activist, artist, curator, writer, and editor [1]. The mainstay of his art since 1994 has been a series of squatting projects in which the chief concerns are with migration, performativity, and law. Each project was a temporary intervention in a particular city that figured in the interlinked movements of people, capital, and language. To date, there have been four squatting projects; the first was located in Berlin. Leung also created a fifth one for the Third Triennial Exhibition in Guangzhou, China that opened at the Guangdong Museum in September, 2008 [2.] What follows are details of the projects that were made in Berlin, New York, Chicago, and Vienna [3]. Although these works form a series, they do not constitute a purely continuous body of work. There are commonalities between projects, primarily in the artist's self-conscious use of squatting as both figure and ground. Throughout these works, he has also engaged metaphorical and metonymical orders of language in which replaced terms are both negated and evoked by a process of substitution. Thus, I see in the works the ambiguity of fetishism and the sensibility of waiting.

Squatting Project/Berlin, 1994, was a public poster project that was commissioned by the NGBK-Berlin;[4]the posters went up in several neighborhoods, on bus shelters and other available outdoor surfaces. In residency at Künsterhaus Bethanien in the summer of 1994, Leung made some plans for Squatting Project/Berlin, which he returned to Berlin to complete in December, after his residency [5].The next step was wheat-pasting 1000 placards throughout the city, mostly in Kreuzberg and Charlottenburg, near the Tiergarten, the Brandenburg Gate, and the former Berlin Wall. Guerilla postering, which has been used by such artists as Victor Burgin, Christy Rupp, and Gran Fury, was in Leung's case a technique strangely proximate to graffiti, in light of being an illicit kind of writing in a place that does not belong to the author, but is occupied without permission. By this, I mean to suggest that the project functioned subtley against the grain of the reigning nomos or law in the place where it was made. It is relevant that the artist himself speaks about the squatting projects in terms of language and writing.

How Leung defined territory with his project was related to the surface information on the posters and the locations of the posters on the streets. As you can see, they were hung quite low, near to the ground, on buildings, bus shelters, and so forth. They were also spare in detail and therefore striking. In the midst of the shabby urban scene, their high-contrast white background stood out rather starkly. Half of the posters included an Asian figure, squatting in a position of rest, and half of the posters included the figure, in some ways a proxy for Leung or for “Asian-ness,” with text that issued a proposal in German to passersby.

poster text

Squatting Project/Berlin, 1994, German text and English language translation of text that appeared on the poster



Simon Leung, Squatting Project/Berlin, 1994

Like most posters one happens across in cities, these ones were in a perpetual mode of sending. This notion bears remarking. It was neither presumed that the signs were connecting with anyone, nor that if they were it would be possible know how they were received. The possibility of the impossibility of their arrival at their destinations, or that their invitations may be unmet, unanswered, or met with confusion, were defining conditions of the project. These possibilities were furthered along by the fact that the placards were posted both together and separately in what Leung calls a “fairly random approach to the city.” Of course, any connection between them may have been lost on passersby: // An invitation to participate in a position? // Why is that figure squatting? // What is this poster advertising? // Faced with such questions, how are we to make sense of these transmissions or unfold the knowledge that is embedded in these works?

Well, Leung gives us quite a lot to think about. It is the relationship of the squatting projects to Marcel Duchamp's readymade that he uses to key us to the overall mood of the squatting projects. Recalling the Frenchman's vivid, somewhat erotic description of the readymade as a rendezvous, for the way that each one indicates a time and place, and a meeting with someone, Leung elaborates that there is always the possibility of a rendezvous, but also that there might be no rendezvous or that an unanticipated or, by some standards, impoverished encounter may result, regardless of the invitations that are sent out[6]. In this sense, the squatting projects are risky and, again, Leung is pleased to accommodate unpredictable outcomes.

In “Squatting through Violence,” he explained having had two historical referents in mind when he conceived the squatting project in Berlin:

Many years ago, my younger brother told me in passing an anecdote which I remember to this day. He was probably twelve or thirteen, waiting for the bus in San Jose, California, the suburban city where we grew up, with a few other people whom he took to be Vietnamese immigrants. What struck him about this otherwise innocuous moment, and perhaps what located the foreigness (sic) of these strangers for him, was the position of their bodies while they were waiting—they were squatting [7].

Relaying his brother's story, Leung continued:

Although they were not squatting to call attention to themselves, that was exactly the effect as they rested their (under)assimilated Asian bodies in a habitual position of waiting, incongruous with the sun-bathed sidewalks of a California suburb.

The next referent that Leung identified came from a presidential address that Marcel Mauss gave at a meeting of the Société de Psychologie in 1934; entitled “Les techniques du corps,” the lecture was published two years later, and in 1992 made its way to Zone Books and a theory-savvy audience on American shores that was interested in the “body”.[8] In the text, Mauss emphasized the need to link psychology and biology to ethnology, and in doing so to get a beat on mondialisation. Not merely discussing habit, Mauss made clear that he was talking about habitus, meaning not merely faculties of the body, but techniques that gain currency because of prestige associated with the ones who teach the techniques and who therefore authorize the use of them. In this way, Mauss could speak of the world as divided between those who sit and those who squat. Neither technique is natural or privileged in his view, but both tend to become naturalized in practice. Mauss insisted on the point that techniques of the body must be both effective and traditional. This is also to say that circulation and transfer are implicit in these techniques. Thus squatting or sitting, as Leung carefully elaborates, involves a social enactment of space, and each technique is “analogous to other mediating forms, such as writing or speech in that they function both as agency and sign” [9]. As in Leung's posters, these techniques have about them telegraphic qualities as well as an economy of means. They are, he says, “sending a squat into the future which will depend on another body, not mine...).”

* * *

Although for a number of years, in courses at the University of Paris and in several books on ethnology, Mauss had wondered about the techniques of the body—caring for the body, consumption, sex, diving, swimming, digging, marching, sleeping, running, sitting, and squatting—it was finally in the spring of 1926, when he found himself lying in a hospital bed in New York City, possibly with dysentery (how dreary!), that he arrived at, in his words, “a revelation.” Thinking about how the American nurses walked by led to a breakthrough.

I wondered where previously I had seen girls walking as my nurses walked. I had the time to think about it. At last I realised that it was at the cinema. Returning to France, I noticed how common this gait was, especially in Paris; the girls were French and they too were walking in this way. In fact American walking fashions had begun to arrive over here, thanks to the cinema. This was an idea I could generalize [10].

It was the lessons of American films in French cinemas that had brought the American girls' gait to Paris, he surmised. One wonders whether anyone was waiting for these techniques. Although teletechnologies and the Internet have eroded certain aspects of nation-states, they have not eroded borders altogether. For that eventuality, we wait. During the delayed broadcasts of the Beijing Olympics with its “One World One Dream,” I searched in vain for pirated live footage online. My quest eventually led to the final diving sequences of Leni Riefenstahl's Olympia, 1938, a film that you probably know is one of the most beautiful films she made. It was filmed at the Berlin Olympics in 1936. If Riefenstahl seems to haunt Olympic events, it is because she was so in tune with the techniques of the body that she was able to spectacularize them with her camera techniques. It may surprise some stalwart fans of Hans Namuth that she invented the technique of putting camera and camera-woman in a pit to film athletes from below. Jesse Owens nearly broke an ankle in one of her trenches.


Interviewing Leung in 2005, Marita Sturken discussed his Berlin poster campaign, noting that it 'addressed the xenophobic violence manifesting in the newly unified Germany, in the Balkan states upon the collapse of the former Yugoslavia, and elsewhere in Europe '[11]. It seems that Leung's work was able to signal, without narrating, a key form of exclusion in the history of Berlin and its shifting immigrant population.

During the decades after the end of the Vietnam War in 1975, East Germany contracted Vietnamese guest workers to work undesirable menial jobs. After the reunification of Germany in the early 1990s, however, the restructured labor market in Germany no longer accommodated the Vietnamese immigrants, and Germany forcibly repatriated fifty thousand of the sixty thousand Vietnamese guest workers in 1992-93 [12].

Against this rather murky set of historical conditions, a struggle continues to be fought over the demographics of the labor force, guest workers with expiring contracts, and counterdesires to maintain low-cost wage-labor (by using a substantial number of workers to whom the German state is not required to extend social security protections) while at the same time strengthening the employment rate (by restricting the participation of non-citizens in the work force). These conflicts are being played out against multilateral trade negotiations between Germany and nations, such as Vietnam and Angola. One consequence of capitalism in Germany and throughout Europe, in fact, is the state practice of bringing in a liminal group rather than having a local reserve “peasant population” to fill menial jobs [13]. Part of what Leung calls the “residual space of the Vietnam War,” involves the forced relocation of Vietnamese refugees and the absolute poverty that the war continues to reproduce in Vietnam. In response to the situation in Germany, antiforeigner riots and neo-Nazi beatings of immigrants have occurred in Berlin since the 1980s. There have also been attacks on hostels throughout Germany with a sharp upswing in such violence in the period just before Leung made his work in 1994. German unification precipitated a dire situation in which thousands of guest workers faced exclusion of many kinds, including being rendered illegal in Germany and subjected to forced relocation and return to Vietnam [14].

With his poster campaign's squatting figure and odd invitation for "anyone” to participate in “this position,” Leung symbolically activated the “position” of exclusion and the guest-worker population. He did this in terms that deconstructively included exclusion and retracted residency as being-outside of being-inside a nation-state, and as being included in political life by virtue of being excluded by the polis. By availing himself of multiple connotations of “squatting,” then, Leung's recurring “figure” squatted and figuratively evoked people, who may formerly have been mere footsteps away from the “figure” and yet, who had been disavowed and displaced from the very ground of the city.  

2) Squatting Project/New York, 1995 included a combination installation/performance, which was included in a 3-person show, “Dennis Balk, Simon Leung, Nils Norman,” at Pat Hearn Gallery in the summer of 1995. Leung made 30 short wooden stools (I mistook them for footstools, at first). Installed at Pat Hearn and also used in several evenings of events, including Leung's performance of “Quartet” for four performers at Matthew Marks Gallery, these modest minimal, stools were made available as alternatives to chairs, which were also offered to visitors. Only a few stools were used as most people availed themselves of the chairs. Also integrated into subsequent works, the stools were “functional sculptures” to “aid those who cannot squat” and “facilitate the squatting position,” according to Leung.

Yet Leung used the possibility that squatting may not be possible for many people living in the US (as Mauss had suggested in 1934, and as Leung had found to be the case for people living in Berlin in 1994). Mauss had explained that the ability to squat is unlearned after childhood in places where sitting is the privileged and widely used technique. Attempts to include the impossible within the possible and the functional within symbolic objects would continue to preoccupy Leung in the squatting projects.

What is interesting in all this is the possibility that that exploring the simultaneous affirmation and denial of objects in poetic work may open a space for imaginative, desirous, and unalienated kinds of language. At least, this is a possibility that Giorgio Agamben proffers when he speaks about the deconstruction of the Oedipalization of language (prioritizing the literal) in Oedipus's solving of the sphinx's riddle (where the sphinx is emblematic of symbolic language)[15]. For Leung, the squatting works are in fact scenes where he has created a visual symbolic pun and a literalized metaphor, and in these works he poses the enigma of occupying multiple positions, inhabiting places, and of becoming-subject and becoming-object as, for example, in the work force or in prohibitively entwining what Martin Heidegger would call “equipmentality” with the horizon of human subjectivity: "A man is not a thing. [16]”In Heidegger's framework, it was not possible for people — with the possible exception of young girls — to be equipment or to be merely useful or present-at-hand. With no illusions, Leung situates this paradox in a kind of feedback loop with a person becoming-equipment, which is only in part to say becoming a chair, through systematic exclusions that attend mercantilism, the division of labor, and practices of governing and law.

3) Squatting Project/Chicago, 1997, was an installation at the Betty Rymer Gallery, in the Columbus Building of the Art Institute of Chicago, and it was included in an exhibition on the theme of “Figure.” For this work Leung cited a well-known 1979 “work” by Michael Asher, which involved relocating the bronze cast of Jean-Antoine Houdon's sculpture George Washington, 1785-91, from the exterior front steps of the Art Institute to an interior gallery. Noted for its own combination of neo-classicism and naturalism, the bronze then stood in the midst of 18th-century European paintings, sculptures, and decorative arts. Asher's work had been “made” for the Seventy-third American Exhibition, curated by A. James Speyer and Anne Rorimer, and it was on view in the indoor gallery from 9 June to 5 August 1979 [17]. Leung's pictures-installation allowed viewers to glimpse archival photographs of Asher's “making”/moving of Houdon's work. These images were hung at eye-level and in series to address potentially squatting viewers. This line of thought and pictures seemingly culminated, if we privilege reading from left to right, in a digital manipulation of a photograph of Houdon's George Washington. This image turned the standing sculptural figure of the war hero and recently elected US President into a squatting figure, whose cane was transformed into an unnecessary orthotic or out-of-place accoutrement, either way, so that the notion of useless equipment factored into the work's confluence of moods (optative, conditional, subjunctive, indicative, and so forth) and tenses (past, present, future conditional). This aspect of the portrait cleverly drew attention both to Leung's affirming and denying an object's presence. 

Given the extraordinary number of citations and borrowing in Leung's work, it is not surprising that David Joselit has called Leung's collaborative community project, Surf Vietnam, 1998, an assortment of “hybrid objects” [18]. From his description one may infer both that the specific project and that Leung's art generally entails a combination of mediums and confounds notions of singularity. They do these things. Still, when we speak about conceptualism, it is difficult to know what exactly may be considered singular; many critics have discerned this confusion [19]. A slight sense of disorientation has not been lost in the ever-expanding rings of polylectic conceptualism that we see in Leung's cherry-picking of strategies from the likes of Asher, Duchamp, and Vito Acconci [20]. The notion of hybridity provides us with a loose genetic, perhaps even biopolitical metaphor for thinking the principal of no-return after intermixing-of species, genres, generations, mediums, and so forth. In this way, we can also attend to the biological sense of the term 'diaspora' in the Greek 'διασ ορå' meaning 'to disperse,' 'to sow, scatter,' as in dissemination. Pamela M. Lee has written of the degree to which Leung's Surf Vietnam offers a 'metaphoric representation of the irreducibility of Vietnam in historical memory and of places in the practice of site-specific art, alike' [21]. What both Lee and Joselit underscore is the heterogeneity that Leung's art furnishes.

Keeping in mind that Leung's squatting projects entail site-specificity at a distance, which is to say, at variance with the site-investigative modes in art of the 1960s and'70s, it is important to recognize how Leung himself accounts for this distance and how he uses the limits of performativity. For example, he does not consider his role to be an investigative reporter or a detective in respect to the places or institutions where he makes art, and in this regard his projects are never supplying but recognizing demands and waiting for results.

Leung makes no pretense to being a solitary author, ever; and typically, I should also underscore, that it is not unusual for multiple historical referents to accrue to his works. "The artist," he has said, "is always a receiver as well as a producer. After Duchamp, after poststructuralism, after TV, it's too tough-going to try to maintain a pose of singular originator'[22]. It is not difficult to grasp why he has logically made conceptualism into his artistic home base. He submits, "that a discourse around the work of art can be thought of as the medium of the work, because it is a performative operation-the discourse is not secondary, it's the support." [23] "Support" is an interesting term for him to use because it conveys conveying itself; and it connotes preventing from failing, maintaining value, advocacy, or corroboration of something. Just as the physical undergirding of a work, e.g., the canvas or stretcher of a painting, may be considered its support, Leung reminds us that human labor, capital, and governmentality are also supports, and that each support we might point to rests on yet another support, stools or chairs, haunches or feet, cities and walls, and so on. Again we are perpetually waiting and therefore, one might argue, we can never be present-at-hand, just as Heidegger claimed.

4) Squatting Project/Wien, 1998, was an installation of text (detailing addresses of buildings in front of which Leung was photographed squatting, year of purchase, year of construction, lot size, whether office or business or warehouse or hall or development site and total floor space), accompanying 131 black and white photographs of Leung squatting in front of each building owned by the Generali Corporation in Vienna. In an adjacent darkened room at the Generali Foundation, where the project was shown, Leung projected 50 color slides showing images of real estate held by the company from a press booklet that was issued by Generali.[24] Shown at the Generali Foundation, where the company's art collection is held, from 5 February to 12 April 1998, the exhibition also included works by Dorit Margreiter and Nils Norman. Curator Mathias Poledna's show was called "The making of."[25] His aim was for participant artists to be attentive to historiography, the utopianism of the 1960s and'70s, and the then-current situations in Austria and Italy. In that context, Leung not surprisingly emphasized GC's role as sponsor, but also as "collector" of both art and real estate," and in a striking move he captured the interrelation between art-qua-symbolic and "real" estate.

Leung, in Tobier and Leung, 179.

When Leung reflected on his squatting projects in 1998, he referred to them as "improper occupations," and his remarks above help us to understand squatting in relation to language: "metaphorically with its connotation of the improper occupation of property and metonymically through squatting the sites in the performance, and then siting the squat in the installation."[26] À propos of property, he says, it too may be unreadable, and that "the squatting figure is always unreadable in some ways-to read the squatter, one also negotiates different representations of power to make it readable."


Simon Leung, Squatting Project/ Wien, 1998, installation view.


* * *

Certainly, Leung's postcard-filled essay on sit(t)ing China admits a desire to understand property – tombstones, postcards, and Hong Kong - in terms of respective but shared illegibility.[27] We also find Leung speaking there about waiting - as in the temporality of the incomplete, of the return of Hong Kong to Chinese rule, of the arrival of a message, and other missives.



Simon Leung, Squatting Project/ Guanghzhou, 2008




Selected Bibliography


Agamben, Giorgio. Stanzas: Word and Phantasm in Western Culture. Translated by Ronald L. Martinez. Minneapolis, MN and London: University of Minnesota Press, 1993.

Alberro, Alexander and Sabeth Buchman, eds. Art After Conceptual Art (Cambridge, London, Vienna: MIT Press and Generali Foundation, 2006).

Alberro, Alexander and Blake Stimson, eds. Conceptual Art: A Critical Anthology. Cambridge, MA and London: MIT Press, 1999.

Austen, J.L. How to do Things with Words. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1962.

Brady, John. S. "Dangerous Foreigners: The Discourse of Threat and the Contours of Inclusion and Exclusion in Berlin's Public Sphere." New German Critique 92 (Spring/Summer 2004): 194-224.

Butler, Connie; Sassen, Saskia; Hipkins, Gavin; Lee Weng Choy; Sekula, Allan. "'Flight Patterns'; 'The city: between topographic representation and spatialized power projects'; 'Pleasures of the state'; 'Citing and re-siting'; 'Titanic's wake.'" Art Journal 60:2 (Summer 2001): 9-37.

Butler, Judith. Antigone's Claim: Kinship Between Life and Death. New York: Columbia University Press, 2000.

---. Excitable Speech: A Politics of the Performative. New York and London: Routledge, 1997.

Carson, Juli. "Conceptualism and the Single Work of Art." Art Journal 61:4 (Winter 2002): 110-11.

---. "Five Paragraphs on Sol LeWitt." ArtUS 8 (May/June 2005): 29-37.

Chiong, Kathryn. "Kawara On Kawara." October 90 (Autumn 1999): 51-75.

Derrida, Jacques. The Post Card: From Socrates to Freud and Beyond. Translated by Alan Bass. Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press, 1987.

Derrida, Jacques and Bernard Stiegler. Echographies of Television: Filmed Interviews. Translated by Jennifer Bajorek. Cambridge: Polity Press, 2002.

Foucault, Michel. The Birth of Biopolitics: Lectures at the Collège de France 1978-1979. Edited by Michel Sennelart and translated by Graham Burchell. Hampshire, England and New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2008.

Fournier, Marcel. Marcel Mauss: A Biography. Translated by Jane Marie Todd. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2006.

Joselit, David. "War and Remembrance." Art in America 87:5 (May 1999): 142-45.

Kaplan, Janet A. and Simon Leung. "Pseudo-languages: a conversation with Wenda Gu, Xu Bing and Jonathan Hay." Art Journal 58:3 (Fall 1999): 86-99.

Karapin, Roger. "Antiminority Riots in Unified Germany: Cultural Conflicts and Mischanneled Political Participation." Comparative Politics 34:2 (Jan. 2002): 147-67.

King, Jennifer. "Perpetually Out of Place: Michael Asher and Jean-Antoine Houdon at the Art Institute of Chicago." October 120 (Spring 2007): 71-86.

Lee, Pamela M. "Site-specificity revisted: Zu Simon Leungs'Proposal for Surf Vietnam'." Translated by Christoph Hollender. Texte zur Kunst 7:26 (June 1997): 94-98.

Leung, Simon. "...and there I am: Andy Warhol and the ethics of identification." Art Journal 62: 1 (Spring 2003): 4-5.

---. "Contemporary Returns to Conceptual Art: Renée Green, Silvia Kolbowski, and Stephen Prina." Art Journal 60:2 (Summer 2001): 54-71.

---. "Marine Lovers …another sit(t)ing." BE Magazin under imprint of Künstlerhaus Bethanien GmbH, Berlin (October 1994): 100-107.

---. "Questionnaire: Simon Leung." October 123 (Winter 2008): 102-04.

---. "Site-Specificity en En Abyme, or Notes on'Warren Piece (in the 70s),'" in Surface Tension: Problematics of Site. Edited by Ken Ehrlich and Brandon LaBelle. Copenhagen and Los Angeles: Errant Bodies Press, 2003.

---. "Squatting Through Violence." Documents 6 (Spring/Summer 1995): 92-101.

Leung, Simon and Marita Sturken. "Displaced Bodies in Residual Spaces." Public Culture 1:1 (2005): 129-52.

LeWitt, Sol. "Paragraphs on Conceptual art." Artforum 5:10 (June 1967): 79-83.

Malabou, Catherine and Jacques Derrida. Counterpath: Traveling with Jacques Derrida. Translated by David Willis. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2004.

Marino, Melanie. "Simon Leung at Pat Hearn." Art in America 85:2 (February 1997): 102.

Marks, MaryJo. "Seeing Through Nauman's Studio." In Reassessing l'atelier d'artiste in the Post-Studio Era. Edited by Wouter Davidts and Kim Paice. Amsterdam: Valiz Press, 2009.

Mauss, Marcel. "Techniques of the Body." In Marcel Mauss: Techniques, Technology, and Civilisation. Edited by Nathan Schlanger and translated by Ben Brewster. New York and Oxford: Durkheim Press/Berghahn Books, 2006; Brewster had previously published his translation in Economy and Society 21:1 (1973), 70-88; original French, "Les techniques de corps." Journal de psychologie 32:3-4 (15 mars - 15 avril, 1936): 271-93.

Moeller, Whitney and Anne Rorimer. Michael Asher:'George Washington' at the Art Institute of Chicago, 1979 and 2005. Chicago and London: Art Institute of Chicago and Yale University Press, 2006.

Poledna, Mathias. The making of. Exh. cat. Vienna: Generali Foundation, 1998.

Ronell, Avital. Finitude's Score. Lincoln, NE and London: University of Nebraska Press, 1994.

---. The Telephone Book: Technology, Schizophrenia, Electric Speech. Lincoln, NE and London: University of Nebraska Press, 1989.

Suderberg, Erica, Ed. Space, Site Intervention: Situating Installation Art. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press, 2000.

Turner, Grady. "Boy talk." World Art 20 (1998): 52-7.

Weh, Vitus H. "The making of:'Simon Leung, Dorit Margreiter, Nils Norman, Mathias Poledna.'" Kunstforum International 140 (April-June 1998): 418-20.


I owe many thanks to Simon Leung for generously and patiently corresponding with me as I prepared this text. The essay is the first leg of my discussion of Leung's squatting projects. Here I detail the first four projects; and in the forthcoming essay, "After Duchamp, after poststructuralism, after TV," my discussion will focus on Leung's project in Guangzhou and his writings on China and law realized in the period since I initially conceived this essay. For invaluable support while writing this text, I am indebted to Bill Brown, Kristin Brockman of the Art Institute of Chicago, Devon Fitzgerald and Paul Ogden Ford, who has sent me many insightful missives about Berlin since we began our counter-Odysseys from Ithaca.

N.B.: Unless otherwise cited, statements by Leung stem from correspondence with me in the period between May and August 2008. All illustrations appear courtesy of the artist.



[1] Part of an astute cohort of artists and curators who came up in the Whitney Independent Studies Program in the late 1980s, Leung has organized exhibitions, written librettos for an extended opera project, and art criticism, served on the editorial board of Art Journal, and co-edited a compendium of essays on contemporary art and theory. His work has been shown in the "Venice Biennale" and the 1993 "Whitney Biennial," as well as at the Museum of Modern Art, the Santa Monica Museum of Art, Glyndor Gallery, and Pat Hearn Gallery, among other venues. In 2008-09 he is a Fellow of the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. He offers courses in Studio art, and is also an affiliate faculty member in Asian American Studies, the Center in Law, Society, and Culture, and the Center for Global Peace and Conflict Studies at the University of California, Irvine. [^]

[2] Leung's proposal for the exhibition identifies the work as a two-channel video projection installation: "This project uses as a point of departure the depiction of the squatting body as a means to a multi-dimensional meditation on China's self-regard, using a scene from Hong Kong filmmaker Stanley Kwan's 1992 film'Center Stage' as a master text upon which nine derivative interpretations can be re-staged. The film, well-known in both China and the West (having had garnered its star, Maggie Cheung her first international measure of recognition with the best actress award at the Berlin Film Festival), is a bio-pic of the one of China's most famous silent film actresses, Ruan Ling-yu, whose work in a series of socially-conscious, labeled'leftist' films in the 1930s won her acclaim, and whose early death by suicide in 1935 cemented her legendary status." [^]

[3] Leung has discussed the squatting projects in a 1998 conversation with Nicholas Tobier, a 2005 interview with Marita Sturken, as well as in three essays that he authored between 1994 and 1995. So that there is no confusion, the essays by Leung include: "Marine Lovers …another sit(t)ing" and "Hocken durch Gewalt" (both published in Germany in 1994); and "Squatting through Violence" is an expanded English-language version of the latter essay that appeared in the American journal Documents in 1995. The 1995 essay has been translated and published in French, as well. [^]

[4] NGBK-Berlin is shorthand for "Neue Gesellschaft für Bildende Kunst e.V." or "The New Society for Visual Arts, Berlin." In the society's title, "e.V." refers to "eingetragener Verein,' which means, "registered society" or "association." [^]

[5] Since 1974, the international workshop Künsterhaus Bethanien has provided relatively high-profile and early-career artists with residencies. During his stay, Leung performed an untitled work on 14 August 1994. The work was part of a program called "Von kurzer Dauer," which is German for 'Of short duration.' Leung recalls that in the performance, "I talked about squatting, and squatted before the audience, making a link between what was in the guidebook, from which I was citing information on'squatting' (in the house possession sense), and the physical act of squatting I was demonstrating." Leung considers that the performance was part of his research for Squatting Project/Berlin. Leung wrote a related essay, first delivered as a lecture at College Art Association's Annual Conference in February 1994 and subsequently published as, "Marine Lovers …another sit(t)ing," BE Magazin under imprint of Künstlerhaus Bethanien GmbH, Berlin (October 1994), 100-107. [^]

[6] Simon Leung, in "Or is this nothing: Nicholas Tobier in Conversation with Simon Leung," in The making of (Vienna: Generali Foundation, 1998), 181. The tenor of Leung's work is often set in relation to notions of poverty and exclusion, and not surprisingly he has explored the Teatr Laboratorium and notions of poor theater in Warren Piece (in the'70s) (1993), which was shown at P.S. 1 in 1994. The three-part installation included three separate videos, one of which was a taped performance of Leung and Warren Niesluchowski performing movement exercises designed by Jerzy Grotowski; and this internalized performance-work was called "How Far is Far from Vietnam?" There Leung was able to explore his interest in movements and performance that largely exclude theatrical trappings, aesthetic niceties, props, and stage sets. [^]

[7] Simon Leung, "Squatting through Violence," Documents 6 (Spring/ Summer 1995), 92. [^]

[8] Leung refers to more than one English translation of Mauss's essay, with slight differences in key passages, but he primarily relies on: Marcel Mauss, "Techniques of the Body," in Jonathan Crary and Sanford Kwinter, eds., Incorporations (New York: Zone Books, 1992), 454-477; No specific translator is given, but multiple translators are listed at the front of the book, including Randall Cherry, Mark Cohen, Robert Hurley, Martin Joughin, Donald Leslie, Brian Massumi, Delphine Bechtel, Ted Byfield. [^]

[9] Leung, "Squatting through Violence," 93. [^]

[10] Marcel Mauss, "Techniques of the Body," in >Marcel Mauss: Techniques, Technology, and Civilisation. Ed. Nathan Schlanger (New York and Oxford: Durkheim Press/Berghahn Books, 2006). [^]

[11] Marita Sturken, in Simon Leung and Marita Sturken, "Displaced Bodies in Residual Spaces," Public Culture 17:1 (2005), 132.[^]

[12] Ibid. [^]

[13] Paradoxically, these practices are fully consistent with German ordoliberalism, which is an influential model of German governmentality's notions of the market economy, individuals, and social interventionism. See, Michel Foucault, The Birth of Biopolitics: Lectures at the Collège de France 1978-1979. Ed. Michel Sennelart, Trans. Graham Burchell (Hampshire, England and New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2008), 205-208. As Roger Karapin observes: "Between 1988 and 1993 the foreign population of Germany increased by 2.4 million, including 1.4 million people from eastern Europe, Asia, and Africa who applied for political asylum and 200,000 who were living in East Germany before unification. In addition, about 1.6 million ethnic German resettlers arrived from eastern Europe, the Soviet Union, and its successor states in this period, with constitutional rights to automatic German citizenship." Roger Karapin, "Antiminority Riots in Unified Germany: Cultural Conflicts and Mischanneled Political Participation," Comparative Politics 34:2 (January 2002), 152. [^]

[14] In the last ten years, we have seen many crackdowns on once-welcome migratory laborers, criminalization of refugees, and increasing interstate border controls, which have become linchpins in globalized capitalism and Western supremacy. Much as in the US, hostility toward migrant labor has become increasingly pronounced in Germany. German State Minister Roland Koch has recently pushed for harsher laws, quicker sentences, boot camps, and the deportation of so-called 'criminal foreigners.' German judges have recently sought to charge youths involved in Neo-Nazi riots, not with inciting riots and perpetrating hate crimes, but as individual assailants, who face far less severe consequences. These developments are familiar all over Europe. [^]

[15] Giorgio Agamben, Stanzas: Word and Phantasm in Western Culture, trans. Ronald L. Martinez (Minneapolis, MN and London: University of Minnesota Press, 1993). [^]

[16] Martin Heidegger, quoted in Avital Ronell, The Telephone Book: Technology, Schizophrenia, Electric Speech (Lincoln and London: University of Nebraska Press, 1989), 21. [^]

[17] More recently, the Chicago Art Institute held yet another exhibition in which Asher himself returned to his 1979 work. It was on view from 29 September 2005 through 1 January 2006, and was titled "Michael Asher: George Washington at the Art Institute of Chicago, 1979 and 2005." For this exhibition, Asher put George Washington in an interior gallery amid 18th-century European art (as he had done in 1979), 'highlighting a shift in institutional approach in the years since his 1979 project.' He also put together a presentation of the "life" of Houdon's sculpture (as it had never really "fit" into the museum's collection). [^]

[18] David Joselit, "War and Remembrance," Art in America 87:5 (May 1999), 142. [^]

[19] Juli Carson, "Conceptualism and the Single Work of Art," Art Journal 61:4 (Winter 2002), 110-11. [^]

[20] Leung happens to know Asher from working with him at CalArts and he has had tremendous insight into Asher's works, including the recent show at the Santa Monica Museum of Art. In that exhibition, Asher rebuilt all of the frames for all the walls that had been put up by the Museum's history in that space, using all the floor plans for all the temporary exhibitions and, Leung observes, he "palimpsestically made them simultaneous in a labyrinthine installation. I was astounded by how it looked-it was in a way, a very Asher gesture, in that he did not'intend' for it to look any particular way because that was indexically determined by the structure and history of the museum… But of course, he knew it could only be a cacophony of frames. In that sense, the'excess'' of the installation excreted from the seams of coherence that is implied by a literal'structure' of walls, floor plans, etc." Following a talk given by Benjamin Buchloh on the occasion of the show, Leung commented quite brilliantly: "The piece worked on two simultaneous orders of time. The first being historical chronological time, as it is an accumulation of floor plans over the course of ten years, one show after another, etc. But the'excess' part of the work also pictures what Kristeva would call, in her reading of Freud's Totem and Taboo, a cyclical time, or a time of the drives (e.g., the time of appetite, the time of the sex drives, of aggression, of war, etc). In Asher's piece, this time of the drives can be thought of as an'exhibitionist drive'—the insatiable'capitalistic overdrive' of the over-heated art world where the demand of each exhibition follows ever more stridently a logic of the commodity, running faster and faster. Therein lies a logic to how Asher'pictures' the off-scene/obscene--though he does not think psychoanalytically, his work is like a roadmap, or floor plan of the political unconscious, which for me is a key element for why his work is so important." [^]

[21] Pamela M. Lee, "Site-specificity revisted: Zu Simon Leungs'Proposal for Surf Vietnam,'" Texte zur Kunst 7:26 (June 1997), 97; my translation from German. Leung, in Leung and Sturken, 151. [^]

[22] Leung, in Leung and Sturken, 151.[^]

[23] Leung, in Leung and Sturken,138. [^]

[24] The photographs of Leung were made by a photographer who was hired by Generali. Leung has noted the importance of "tactics" and addressing "conditions of certain bodies within that body politic," in relation to Squatting Project/ Wien. See, Leung, in Tobier and Leung, 190; and Ernest Larsen, "Ordinary Gestures of Resistance," in Erica Suderberg, ed., Space, Site Intervention: Situating Installation Art (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2000), 178-87; Larsen has discussed the Kafkaesque dimension of Squatting Project/ Wien and that Franz Kafka had worked for Assicurazioni Generali in Prague. [^]

[25] For a discussion of this exhibition see, Sabeth Buchman, "Under the Sign of Labor," in Alexander Alberro and Sabeth Buchman, eds., Art After Conceptual Art (Cambridge, London, Vienna: MIT Press and Generali Foundation, 2006), 179-95.[^]

[26] Leung, in Tobier and Leung, 190. [^]

[27] Leung, "Marine Lovers...another sit(t)ing," BE Magazin under imprint of Künstlerhaus Bethanien GmbH, Berlin (October 1994), 100-107. [^]



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