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It's high anxiety over naked art
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A naked plastic man with wings on the back, or the so-called "hurt angle," sets at the top of a public building along the High Street Lofts in Xuhui District yesterday as one of Liu Jin's installation works.

AN adage that has stood the test of time is: We don't know much about art, but we know what we like.

It can certainly be applied to Liu Jin, who said yesterday he will put 15 more of his works entitled "The Hurt Angel" ? a naked plastic man with wings on the back - on the top of public buildings, making Shanghai "a city of angels."

Many city residents believe "a city of horrors" would be a far more apt description.

Five such works are already installed atop city landmarks. Some residents have called police and firefighters as they thought they were seeing a suicide attempt. One woman reportedly had a heart attack at the sight.

Shanghai Daily visited one "angel" set in the High Street Lofts of Xuhui District yesterday. It is disturbingly lifelike and it appears a man is hanging off the edge of the roof.

"The installation has been relocated five times since it made its debut on Monday night," said Liu.

At midnight on Monday, police came to the High Street Lofts as they received calls about someone going to jump off the roof. Liu was on hand to say: "Relax, it's art."

The next morning, more residents complained about an offensive "naked man."

Soon after the art was relocated to the other side of the building, but no luck there either. A restaurant opposite called police, saying it was frightening their customers away.

Similar adverse reactions happened to the other "angels" installed in Pudong's Zendai Thumb Plaza and the Wujiaochang area in Yangpu District. One elderly woman, surnamed Wang, suffered a heart attack after she saw "a naked man" hanging off the building, according to the Shanghai Morning Post.

"I cannot understand what it wants to express but I feel that it greatly matches the fashionable landmark," said Fan Xiaoyan, a woman who works in an office near the High Street Lofts.

"It reflects the apathy of people," said Liu.

"Art works usually appear in museums, the towers of ivory. People need some time to accept art in a public open space," he added.

His views are at least partly shared by one academic.

"Performance art has become an irresistible trend in history," said Gu Xiaoming, professor of the history department of Fudan University. "Chinese people will gradually get used to art intervention in a variety of ways.

"But many Chinese artists haven't grasped the philosophy of performance art and cannot produce innovative work, so their style tends to be coarse," Gu said.

For city residents, the jury is most definitely still out.

(Shanghai Daily March 29, 2008)

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