» Archive for 30 December 2009
What more is there to say? If we should learn from history, and images are the most powerful medium of our age, then the following should need no introduction. For all the love of spectacle we endured, 2009, thank you most of all for introducing me to the perils of the Caonima, watch your back, river crabs are everywhere.
Click on photos for news links.
NEGOTIATING DIFFERENCE –– What is the Academic Context for Chinese Contemporary Art? As contemporary scholarship integrates art from China into a broadening notion of art history, the growing list of important reasons for its study in the west are plagued by methodological fissures, differences between contexts and backgrounds, and a host of competing interests contending for the roles of gatekeepers in the interpretation and writing the history “Contemporary art from China.” This was evidenced in the May “China Contemporary Art Forum,” where real-time translation was not enough to make up for the different value orientations of scholars present. (Read a review by participants Hans Belting and Andrea Buddensieg) Western/foreign/“outsider” scholars who approach the subject must contend with numerous language and cultural differences, and China’s culture of introversion that is often defensive when confronted with Western criticism, is almost always suspicious of Western interpretations, and definitely rejects negative attention. East-West negotiations (more specifically framed as China-West 中西 within China) are arguably the most important issue in Chinese art during the entire 20th century, and compose a comparative framework that unfortunately still pervades all discussions on art production, theory, criticism and art appreciation in China today.In this regard, the study of Chinese art across cultures still lacks an accepted framework for discourse, and as the field expands, the already vast pool of variables will only increase: frames of reference, academic training and background, language skills, cultural fluency, one’s stake in their research and incorruptibility, level of participation and mother culture all contribute to our various competing and fluctuating perspectives. How to situate our research in authenticity? How to present art from China in a global context? The conference “Negotiating Difference” attempted to address some of these questions last October at Berlin’s Haus der Kulturen der Welt, looking at “Chinese” art in an international setting, and adapting English as the primary language at the conference, the main focus was on questions of methodology. Unique in the sense that it was directed at young scholars and graduate students, more than thirty people from diverse backgrounds convened in Berlin for the event. As the introduction reads: “Whether considered from a discursive, institutional or object-centered perspective, contemporary Chinese art always involves aspects of a globally informed locality and a locally affected globality,” [italics mine] organizers hoped to critically examine the predominant existing research frameworks that emphasize an essentialist “Chinese identity” or locate art from China within an entirely “Western” definition of art.Hans Belting and Gao Minglu were scheduled to attend, but were in absentia, and thus the only “senior scholar” in attendance at the conference was Prof. John Clark from University of Sydney. In his keynote address, the art historian posited three questions that set the tone for the conference: 1) Are ‘Chinese-style’ and ‘Western-style’ twentieth century art practices and their interpretive structures autonomous? 2) If we avoid or defer the bifurcation ‘Chinese’ / ‘Western’, what kinds of historical time is implicit in the development of modern Chinese art? 3) How does Chinese modern and contemporary art look different if we use certain international comparisons from other Asian contexts?Below, in an attempt to introduce to the conference as well as recent scholarship in the field, I’ve provided very short summaries (interpretations?) of each of the papers presented at the conference. Please accept apologies in advance for any cursory reviews, there was so much to discussion that a full summary of each one of them would be beyond the scope of my abilities. The summaries are divided into the eight panels that framed the discussion over the two-day conference, beginning below with “art the transnational and transcultural context.” Comments welcome.I. Contemporary Chinese Art in the Transnational and Transcultural Context.Dr. Juliane Noth, a professor at the Freie Universität Berlin and one of the organizers of the conference, presented on the No Name painters of the late 70s and early 80s, (more…)
Li Ming “X X”
No. 319-1 East End Art (A), CaoChangDi Village, Chaoyang District｜朝阳区草场地村319号艺术东区内
November 14–December 27
Li Ming, XX, 2009, still from a color video, 5 minutes 17 seconds.
Eleven videos and sporadic accoutrements litter the floor of this exhibition by the emerging artist Li Ming. A television, cast in the bushes outside the gallery entrance, screens Back Garden, 2008, in which security guards, recurring characters in the artist’s vignettes, romp around the gardens of a residential compound in unintelligible acts of “play.”
The folly continues indoors, where the atmosphere turns to one of extreme irrationality and even perturbation. Li’s works fall into the category of absurd realism; he sets the parameters for the semi-orchestrated madness and compulsive behaviors in his videos, while the improvisation of his actors who interpret his instructions makes the works fascinating to watch. In the video XX, 2009, two men sit on a stone, writhing as they attempt to exchange shirts; the rule is that their skin must always make contact. More awkward body negotiations and Dionysian revelry follow in Afternoon Happiness, 2008, wherein a group of near-naked boys chase one another through a demolished building, smear one another with cream, and then try to lick it off.
The strongest works in the exhibition display Li’s understated production techniques, which do not undermine his ability to captivate viewers. Recurring characters, plants, and unorthodox, sexually charged human contact are just a few elements in his latent symbolic language. An exploration of the boundary between agony and ecstasy is among the most significant leitmotifs here.
Elsewhere, 2009, video_12′09”