Interview: island6 curator Carlin Reinig on bad ideas and the collective's creative process

Meet the Shanghai-based art collective redefining collaborative art

Image: courtesy island6
We see tons of music collabs these days (we’re looking at you DJ Khaled), but art collabs? Not so much, and that’s a shame. The communal environment gets creative juices flowing and ideas bouncing, so when it does happen, the result can be pretty great. That’s exactly the idea behind Shanghai-based art collective island6.

First started in 2006 by French curator and artist Thomas Charvériat and three artist friends in an old floor mill on Moganshan Lu before moving into a studio-slash-gallery in M50, island6 has witnessed Shanghai changing over the past 13 years and tries to reflect that through its work.

With works like a paper cut-out cat staring at LED goldfish, and a painting of a taxi with video of viewers' faces projected into the rearview mirror, the collective’s new exhibition Who Needs Men Anyway? is all about how women continue to push boundaries, but there’s much more to it. We talked to curator Carlin Reinig to find out how the creative pieces fell into place.


GIFs: courtesy island6

Who came up with the title for the exhibition?

It was a team thing. We sat down and talked about it. I guess we decided on 'Who needs men anyway?’ because [gender issues] are a hot topic right now. People are thinking about it a lot, so we tried to take a fun and whimsical spin on it.

What is island6? How many artists are involved?

island6 六岛 is a Shanghai-based art collective made of painters, sculptors, photographers, filmmakers, new media artists, writers, engineers, curators and technicians. The mission is to produce cutting-edge art that constantly contemplates the future of Asia and engages sights and scenes from old and new China. [The number] is always changing, but over the years, it’s ranged from six to 26. I’d say we are sitting around 15 to 20 now.


Do artists gather at the studio to create?

It sort of depends. Some of our artists are quite old. We don’t expect them to make the trip across the city to here where they only do a couple of hours’ work. Some artists choose to come here though, [because] they want to. But almost all of our artists have other jobs because you can’t support yourself as an artist [alone], so they will either come very early in the morning or late at night.

What’s the creation process like for island6?

It’s really collaborative. You never do anything by yourself. No one person has any deciding vote this is how it’s going to be. There’s always a discussion. And this really shows in our work as far as the values and creativity. When artists complete [their portion], they gave it back, and we have technicians to put it together. This process takes at least six or eight weeks. That’s when everybody is really focused and really doing all the stuff.


The text that goes along with each work is just is just as intriguing. Like the one for the work above – 'Ever since the first human realised the only solution to hunger was through work, we relentlessly want to make others do that instead of us. Be them slaves, employees or machines...' Are those part of the artwork as well?

So basically, the whole work is both the artwork and the blurb that goes along with it. But we like to say the blurb is really a piece of artwork in itself. So the artwork is made of two artworks, really. That’s also my opinion. I am one of the writers, so maybe I am biased.

What’s the best part about doing collective art?

The work I do for the creative side of things is getting paid to brainstorm all day, and that’s really healthy for my brain. Everybody has a lot of bad ideas, but that’s ok because we have to have bad ideas to have good ones.

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