island6 (M50 Factories)
No.50 Moganshan Road on the south bank of the Suhe Creek, with an area of 41,000 m2, with once industrial buildings now entirely transformed as diverse art centers, galleries and studios, which were first built across different historical phases dating from the 1930's. A dynamic & cultural industry has gradually evolved at No.50 Moganshan Road. Amongst them, a seminal not-for-profit center for experimental and new media art called island6 Arts Center, spearheaded by the founder, Thomas Charvériat.
Since its inception two years earlier, the site a turn of the century, vacant warehouse, the direction an amalgamation of conceptual artists working in concert under the artistic direction of Thomas Charvériat, and more recently, Zane Mellupe as creative director, island6 has proven itself to be a conduit of experimental collaboration, intercultural dialogue and laboratorium of contemporary artistic practice. Their former site had stood apart, an isolated and unique structure which genuflects the orientation of its action. Detached from the commercial enclave of 50 Moganshan Road, one must have sought out island6...a remote bastion of collective endeavour shared by well over two hundred international artists, a dramatic movement in comparison with other neighboring centers.
The contrast and dynamism of island6 has been a welcome one: the cultural shores of 50 Moganshan Lu have brought much public and professional acclaim regarding the contemporary arts of China. Following over two years experimentation and expansion, the island6 Lab has now relocated to the interior of the m50 compound following a series of experimental exhibitions staged in mutual concert with ifa gallery.
First established in 2006 in Moganshan Road, popularly known as m50, the new island6 space was founded by ifa Gallery towards the promotion of new and emergent artists from across the PRC. The m50 district is found at the heart of a former textile factory in the north west of Shanghai, which became the first and most dynamic art district in Shanghai. m50 is found along the shores of the historic Suzhou River, the shores lined with turn of the century factories, mills and warehouses, ancient quays and modern barges create a live pulse until today & the ultra-modern horizon of condominiums and skyscrapers make for a striking contrast.
Following a recent merger and series of interim exhibitions between ifa Gallery and island6, the converted space, designed by French architect Philippe Diani has undergone complete modern renovations while keeping the historic traits of the site itself intact. The interior is an echo of the juxtaposition of the new and old, the erosion and vanishing of local cultural and societal traits amidst the current wave of change which has swept and transformed the city of Shanghai over the past two decades. Located on the second floor of the no. 6 Building of the m50 compound, the interior reveals an exacting attention in detail and spatial renovations following the entire renewal of the exterior facade of the structure in recent years. Access is made by way of an inner stairwell belonging to the original industrial design of the building and a freight elevator, which has survived times passage, further facilitates both entries to the premises as well as mounting of large art installations.
The current space now comprises 980 sqm of open floor area for use in exhibitions, houses an independent design studio and artists workshop designated for in-situ creations are found within the unique "L" architectural design. A maximum potential for an open visual experience is created by a semi-detached area which best serves exclusive presentations of digital video and similar projections.
A supplemental renovation completed in 2008, a combination of glass and drywall, leaves an open view upon any room of the space. Designed by Taiwanese architects Zheng Guoyang and Kang Jingfang, this recent construction augments a multi-faceted and optimal visual experience due to the unique segmentation and transparency of its design.
The front of the area house an archive, library and simple reception area where guests are immediately received and literature on past, present and future exhibitions made available to the visiting public. The immediate wall space opposite affords optimal natural daylight due to the minimal decor which is housed in the foyer and the original factory window panels which reach to the 5 meter high ceiling. The ceiling itself conceals a rare architectural feature concealed by the current white space: reinforced concrete houses a steel lattice framework which belongs to the ingenuity of the engineers whom first sought to expand the horizons of industrial architecture in the Shanghai area at the time of the birth of the compound. The wall space is kept in a neutral non-reflective white paint & the bare concrete floors are those that were formed in the original structures creation. A dark grey field absorbs the presence of artwork and highlights those works which employ new technologies and digital/virtual media, the hallmark of island6 creations.
The bare industrial appearance of the site is complemented by original furniture by French designer Aymeric Lefort. The entire length of the hall to the fore of the elevator entrance features an enormous freestanding table which acts as a base for the display of multiple artworks, most notably sculpture and other spatial creations, and within the remaining area of the gallery space are found select creations by Aymeric Lefort, whose accent is on a minimalist use of rare wood and chromed metals.
The rear of the vast exhibition space features independent track lighting which houses the unique placement of halogen, focal spot and other specific lighting ensembles which are attuned to each artwork and the specific demands made by the collective exhibition of original artworks from amongst the most progressive of new artists from within the P.R.C. and from abroad. A D.M.C. controlled lighting system, originally designed for a private catwalk, now acts to further enhance the visual experience of the arts centre. There exist three independent wall spaces of varying length and multiple floating panels which are used in the presentation of artworks. In the adjacent semi-enclosed area, another original window maximizes the diffusion of natural light sources in a controllable manner. Precise coordination of electric light projection creates for a unique atmosphere for the multi-media and interdisciplinary exhibitions often staged by the island6 Lab collective.
The total spatial experience well reflects the comprehensive and experimental approach held by island6: a seminal platform and presence of new artistic collaboration in the metropolis of Shanghai today.
R A Suri 11.26.2008