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Department of Love

Co-curated with Olivia Aherne, Celina Basra, Anaïs Castro, and Tiange Yang.



December, 2018

Shanghai Academy of Fine Arts, Shanghai, CH


As part of Shanghai Curators Lab alumni exhibition "It Was a Dream of a Trip"



aaajio, Diego Ascencio, Ramiro Ávila, Richard Brautigan, Quiet Kate, Mountain River Jump! (Huang Shan & Huang He), Klara Ravat, Alvin Tran, Evelyn Taocheng Wang, Steven Warwick, Xu Zhen.


“If love in society is to represent a better one, it cannot do so as a peaceful enclave, but only by conscious opposition.” (T.W. Adorno, Minima Moralia, § 110)


Prompted by reflections on time and labor in the hyper-rapidly evolving context of art institutions and biennials, as well as on the structure and accelerated pace of the Shanghai Curators Lab, we present the Department of Love. Within this fictional institutional framework, moments of authenticity, self-preservation, love and care are staged to reveal (and stand in opposition to) the artificiality of vacuous institutional spaces, and the rhetorics of display and language they employ to assert themselves.


As a tool of capitalism and an act of resistance, as well as an independent voice of the heart, we hope to situate the places, meanings and functions of love in contemporary society. Why do we keep on returning to love and care as the ground and soil for our curatorial work? In this respect, the love of machines is just as relevant as the sentimentality of scent; the essential practice of breathing, tools for self-preservation and small ritualistic gestures, like the offering of rose tea - an act of hospitality that will circulate through the exhibition space.


The Department of Love consists of various design elements and a multitude of artistic practices spanning video, drawing, scent, poetry, dance and sound, as well as transient situations of hospitality and reciprocity.


While four stations are dedicated to Hospitality, Reciprocity, Care and Practice, these spaces are both flexible and fluid, allowing for a blurring of diverse practices and the possibility to drift and oscillate between the works. The visitor enters the Department once they enter the gallery. It functions as a framework that does not end with the exhibition, but one that will continue to grow beyond the confines of the gallery space to different contexts, with some works functioning as scores to be taken home, repeated and practiced. The Department of Love will continue to vibrate, circulate, and percolate.


Olivia Aherne, Paulina Ascencio, Celina Basra, Anaïs Castro, Tiange Yang, Shanghai 2018.

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