» Archive for the 'in translation' Category
Late March. Public heat has ceased for eight days now. With concrete walls for insulation, my hands are freezing!It just might be warmer outside….I’ve been doing some research lately, and when I came across this cartoon from the May 1955 issue of Meishu 美术, I thought it should be shared, if only to show how much has remained the same.The title is “Four Seasons in one Building.” When this was drawn, urban dormitory dwellings were under construction en masse, according to the caption, the four season phenomenon was caused by irregular water pipes.I ran into a friend yesterday who hasn’t had hot water in their 15th floor apartment for three days, their building was built in the 90s. I’d rather be cold!At Beijing University, I lived in a dorm room which looked like the 3rd in the cartoon below (ah, Shaoyuan!). Now, as I write to you dear readers, I look like that huddled mass on the first floor, with just my hands sticking out from the folds….
Ding Ling （1904－1986) was a writer whose career took off in 1927, during the Republican era. She was eventually imprisoned by the Guomindang, who tried to convince her to use her popularity to fight for their cause, which she did not. She eventually escaped and made it to the Communist base at Yenan, where intellecutals were gathering, and she became an important writer advocating, in some cases criticizing the communist organization that had formed there. In this particular instance, she was criticizing the hypocrisy and double standards for women that she saw in Yenan. As to be expected, she was criticized heavily for this, the criticism was her putting women’s rights before the “more important goal” of political rights for the proletariat. She was sent away for re-education from the peasants. So much still rings true today. (To switch between Chinese and English versions, click language preferenceat right)
When will it no longer be necessary to attach special importance to the word ‘woman,’ and to give it special attention?
Each year this day comes round. Every year on this day, meetings are held all over the world and womens’ forces are inspected. Even though Yenan has not been as lively these last two years as in previous years, there is at least always a few people busy at work. And there will certainly be a congress, speeches, telegrams and essays.
Women in Yenan are happier than women elsewhere in China. So much so that many people ask enviously: ‘How can the female comrades become so rosy and fat on millet?’ It doesn’t seem to surprise anyone that women make up a big proportion of the staff in the hospitals, sanatoria and clinics, but they are inevitably the subject of conversation, as a fascinating problem, on every conceivable occasion. Moreover, various female comrades often become the target of deserved criticism. These accusations are serious and justifiable.
People are forever interested when women comrades get married, but that is never enough. Female comrades are not allowed to get to friendly with their male comrades, even more so, they cannot become close with more than one. Cartoonists ridicule them: ‘A department head can get married too?’ The poets say: ‘All the leaders in Yenan are horsemen, and none of them are artists. In Yenan it’s impossible for an artist to find a pretty girlfriend.’ But in other situations they are lectured: ‘Damn it, you look down on us old cadres and say we’re country bumpkins. But if it wasn’t for us country bumpkins, you’d never be in Yenan eating millet!’ But women invariably want to get married. (It’s even more of a sin not to be married, single women are even more of a target for rumours and slanderous gossip.)
Whether he rides horses or wears straw sandles, whether he’s an artist or a supervisor, anyone will do. Women inevitably have children. Such children have their own fates: some are wrapped in soft baby wool and decorated felt to be looked after by governesses. Others are wrapped in soiled cloth and left crying in their parents’ beds, while their parents consume their child bearing allowance. But for this allowance (25 yuan a month, or just over three pounds of pork), many of them would probably never get a taste of meat. Whoever they marry, the fact is, those women who feel compelled to bear children will most likely be publicly derided as ‘Noras who have returned home’. [*] Those women comrades in the position to employ governesses can go out once a week for the most sanitized dance party. Behind their backs will be the most incredible gossip and whispering, as soon as they go somewhere they cause a great stir, and no matter if it is horse riders, those in straw sandals, artists or supervisors, all eyes are glued to them. This has nothing to do with our theories, our doctrines or the speeches given at meetings. We all know this to be a fact, a fact right before our eyes, but it is never mentioned.
It’s the same with divorce. In general there are three conditions to pay attention to when getting married. (1) Political purity; (2) both parties should be more or less the same age and comparable in looks; (3) mutual help. Even though everyone is said to fulfill these conditions—as for (1), there are no open traitors in Yenan; as for (3), you can call anything ‘mutual help’, including darning socks, patching shoes and even feminine comfort—everyone nevertheless makes a grand show of attention to these. And yet, the pretext for divorce is invariably the wife’s political backwardness. I am the first to admit that it is a shame when a man’s wife is not progressive and retards his progress. But let us consider in what sense they are backward. Before marrying, they were inspired by the desire to soar to heavenly heights and lead a life of bitter struggle. They were married partly due to physiological necessity and partly as a response to the sweet talk about ‘mutual help’. Thereupon they are forced to toil away and even becoming ‘Noras returned home’. Afraid of being seen as ‘backward’, those who are a bit more daring rush around begging nurseries to take their children. They ask for abortions, and risk punishment and even death by secretly swallowing potions to induce abortions. But the answer comes back to them: ‘Isn’t giving birth to children also labor? You’re just after an easy life, you want to be in the limelight. After all, what indispensable political work have you performed? Since you are so frightened of having children, and are not willing to take responsibility once you have had them, why did you get married in the first place? No-one forced you to.’ Under these conditions it is impossible for women to escape this destiny of ‘backwardness’. When women capable of working sacrifice their careers for the joys of motherhood, people always sing their praises. But after ten years or so, they have no way of escaping the tragedy of ‘backwardness’ (and divorce). Even from my point of view, as a woman, there is nothing cute about such ‘backward’ elements. Their skin is beginning to wrinkle, their hair is growing thin, and fatigue is robbing them of their last vestiges of attractiveness. Their tragic fate seems self-evident. But whereas in old society, they would probably have been pitied and considered unfortunate, nowadays their tragedy is seen as something self-inflicted and deserved. Aren’t there discussions as to whether divorce should be granted on simply the petition of one party, or on the basis of mutual agreement? In the great majority of cases the husband petitions for divorce. For the wife to do so, she must be leading an immoral life, of course she deserves to be cursed!
I myself am a woman, and I therefore understand the failings of women better than most, but I also have a deeper understanding of their suffering. Women are incapable of transcending the age they live in, of being perfect, or being like iron. They are incapable of resisting all social temptations, or silent oppressions, each has a history of blood and tears, they have experienced great emotions—in elation as in depression, whether engaged in the lone battle of life or drawn into the humdrum stream of life. This is even truer of the female comrades who come to Yenan, and I therefore have much sympathy for those fallen women classified as criminals. What is more, I hope that men, especially those in positions of leadership, and women themselves will consider the mistakes women commit in their social context. It would be better if there were less empty theorizing and more talk about real problems, so that theory and practice are not divorced, and if each Communist Party member were more responsible for his own moral conduct.
But we must also hope for a more from our women comrades, especially those in Yenan. We must encourage ourselves, we must develop a feeling of comraderie.
The world has never seen incompetent people in a position to seize what they need. Therefore, if women want equality, they must first strengthen themselves. I don’t need to say it, and we all understand it. Today there are certain to be people making fine speeches bragging about the need to first acquire political power. I would simply mention a few things that any frontliner, whether a proletarian, a fighter in the war of resistance or a woman, should pay attention to in his or her everyday life:
1. Don’t allow yourself to fall ill. A wild life can at times appear romantic, poetic and attractive, but in today’s conditions it is inappropriate. You are the best keeper of your life. There is nothing more unfortunate than the loss of health. It is closest to your heart. The only thing to do is keep a close watch on it, pay careful attention to it, cherish it.
2. Make yourself happy. Only when you are happy can you be youthful, active, fulfilled, and steadfast in the face of all difficulties; only then will you see your future and know how to enjoy yourself. This sort of happiness is not a life of contentment, but a life of struggle and of advancement. Therefore we should all do some meaningful work each day and some reading, so that each of us is in a position to give something to others. Laziness simply encourages the feeling that life is hollow, feeble and in decay.
3. Use your brain, and make a habit of doing so. Correct any tendency to not think or ponder, or the problem of going with the tides. Before you say or do anything, think whether what you are saying is right, and whether yours is the most suitable way of dealing with the problem, whether it goes against your own principles, and whether you feel you can take responsibility for it. Only then will you be free of any regrets about your actions. This is called acting rationally. It is the best way of avoiding the pitfalls of sweet words and honeyed phrases, of being sidetracked by petty gains, of wasting our emotions and wasting our lives.
4. Be resolved to ‘eat bitterness’ and persevere to the end. Be aware, modern women should identify and cast off all their rosy, compliant illusions. Happiness is taking up struggle in the midst of the raging storm, and not strumming a lute in the moonlight or recite poetry among the blossoms. In the absence of the greatest resolution, it is easy to falter in mid-path. Not suffer is becoming degenerate. The strength to carry on should be nurtured through the quality of one’s ‘perseverance.’ People without great aims and ambitions rarely have the firmness of purpose that does not covet petty advantages or seek a comfortable existence. But only those whose aims and ambitions benefit not the individual, but all of humankind can persevere to the end.
Postscript: On re-reading this article, it seems to me that there is much room for improvement in the passage on what we should expect from women, but because I have to meet a deadline with this manuscript, I have no time to revise it. But I also feel that there are some things which, if said by a leader before a big audience, would probably evoke satisfaction. But when such views are written by a woman, they will probably be discredited. But since I have written them, I offer them as I always intended, for the perusal of those people with similar views.
Printed in Yenan’s Liberation News, March 9, 1942
[*] A reference to the heroine of Ibsen’s A Doll’s House, a proto-feminist heroine who left home to achieve her freedom.
The following are curatorial texts included with the 8th Shanghai Biennale press packet, written by the Curatorial Team. They are unedited, but blue highlights thoughts that raised my eyebrow and made me think, enjoy! For Chinese language original, click on 中文 to the right.
What Is Rehearsal?
A Curatorial Thinking of the 8th Shanghai Biennale
The last two years have witnessed the latest global crisis. As if on cue, almost concurrently, an unprecedented crisis also befell contemporary art on a global scale. This one is no spiritual crisis experienced by modernists in the depths of their individual creativity, but a malarial torpor endemic to today’s world, or alternatively, a malaise of the system – the fact that the creativity of individual artists fails to match that of the system of artistic production, and by a wide margin. Artists cannot rid themselves of the sinking feeling that they are in the system’s employment, made to order by society at large. Everywhere we look, artists are cosplaying their roles. The 8th Shanghai Biennale raises the following question: What is suppressing and constraining the power of the heart in the economic and political context of contemporary art? Is it because of the ‘invisible hand’ of the art world? Or is it because of ‘trends’ in the international art market? Should we blame all the identikit mega-exhibitions worldwide? Or the omni-present mass culture? Artists are becoming more and more constrained and boring and we are dragged into a ‘post-history’ malaise. So how should we describe this state clearly? How can we get out of the dilemma of creation in the context of an art system constituted by seamless and endless international dialogue, mega exhibitions, art fairs and transnational capital? How do we identify the internal frontiers of the ‘art world’ hijacked by global capitalism while we are ourselves part of it? Is contemporary artistic practice capable of generating a new Produktionsverhältnisse – system of production – beyond the throttles of institutional critique and social participation?
The 8th Shanghai Biennale defines itself as a ‘rehearsal’ and as a reflective space of performance. ‘Rehearsal’ is not only a strategy or a special form of exhibition. It’s traveling art and opening to all the audience. ‘Rehearsal’ focuses on the full process of exhibition and on creativity itself. The exhibition hall is not only the medium for the artworks, but also a changing space that can trigger creativity. As Brecht has noted, “Actors in rehearsal do not wish to ‘realize’ an idea. Their task is to awaken and organize the creativity of the other. Rehearsals are experiments, aiming to explore the many possibilities of here and now. The rehearser’s task is to expose all stereotyped, clichéd and habitual solutions.” The ‘rehearsal’ of the 8th Shanghai Biennale is a self-performative act by the art world, a wake up call to itself and an attempt at self-liberation. Rehearsal is wielded against ‘performance’, ‘production’ and ‘discursive practice’. The responsibility of the curators is to differentiate, organize and then mobilize. Today many exhibitions are restricted in the theatre, but for this biennale, the theatre and rehearsal are not only spaces for exhibition, but methods of creation, exhibition and communication. We hope that the biennale will be able to promote interaction between artists. The elements of venue, narration and social participation have become key concepts in contemporary visual art, so we also hope that we can explore these areas in the mode of ‘rehearsal’.
As the space of communication between art and the public, the exhibition is like an enclave transcending everyday reality. It’s located within the quotidian, yet goes beyond it. Its mode of existence is not unlike that of the theatre. The exhibition is the theatre of contemporary art. The exhibition not only reformulates/represents everyday life, but also provides a vehicle for its own representative polity. It is the autonomous region of art, within which artists are also legislators. This is surely the most precious legacy of modernism. But why do artists still harbor doubts about exhibitions, even while they crave the opportunity to exhibit? Why are we still somewhat perplexed by artists’ reliance on them? For artists, the exhibition is fast becoming the primary venue of creativity, hijacking their work and transforming it into something systematized and automated. In the last decade, even institutional critique has become a standard trope in this industrialized art production. Even more worryingly, the exhibition - once art’s autonomous enclave in the public domain – has turned into a hub for production, exposition and consumption of global capital…
On the other hand, if art is indeed ‘an everyday practice’, then where is the need for the exhibition? Art as a social activity is a nexus that connects and shares inter-subjective encounters. It therefore aims to pit the group against the public, neighborhood against propaganda, and the mutating quotidian against ‘pop culture’ - that nebulous construction tailor-made and co-opted by media and the establishment, consisting of almost pure ideology. So, can the exhibition be considered the battleground for this antagonism? Or on the contrary, is exhibition, as art’s autonomous dominion, merely a theme park of little import trapped in the much larger and more real everyday space of social communication?
But the exhibition is not solely intended for communication between disparate subjects. It is not just a space for networking, release or realization. It is primarily a creative space. (more…)
The following essay will be printed in the catalog of the show “ZAOXING” an exhibition of artwork from the faculty of the CAFA School of Fine Arts. The exhibition is currently up at the CAFA Art Museum, and will be up until October 7th. Pan’s discussion of the inherited notion of the three-dimensional arts at CAFA gives a worthwhile and historical perspective on the subject from the perspective of inside the academy. Pan Gongkai is the president of the Central Academy, and vice-president of the Chinese Artists Association. He is an artist, historian and theoretician. Translation my own.
The Significance of “Zaoxing”
The use of the term “zaoxing yishu” (the three-dimensional, modeling, or plastic arts) was at its height in artistic circles of the 1950s and 1960s, a result of the Soviet art academy’s influence. It encompasses primarily the mediums of oil painting, printmaking, sculpture and mural painting in the Western tradition, and has definition similar to “easel art.” However, over different eras and across different forums the concept eventually came to incorporate architecture; Chinese traditional mediums were later brought within its parameters. In the beginning of this new century, the Central Academy of Fine Arts is in the midst of another round of reframing the disciplines taught at the academy. We still use the phrase zaoxing to identify the oil painting, print-making, sculpture and mural painting departments, but making a distinction from Chinese painting, have established separate School of Fine Arts and the School of Traditional Chinese Painting, and adding an experimental art department to the traditional zaoxing arts concept. Thus, our concept of “fine arts” in the new millennium is closer to the Western notion of “pure arts.”
These Western mediums enjoy long histories and the achievements made in each respective tradition are rich and generous, they are mankind’s great cultural heritage. But in the Twentieth Century, under the assault of modernism’s great revolution, the tradition of easel arts progressively disintegrated. Since the 1960s, the structure of these disciplines in Europe and North America underwent enormous changes, the fundamental regimen of realist techniques such as sketching slowly slackened and faded out, and were replaced with the analysis of artistic concepts and training and experimentation in creating new ways of thinking.
The significant motivation for the conceptual change in Western art education was this: the success of the various schools of modernism art in the Twentieth Century, which demonstrated that traditional art forms were already outdated. Revolt and innovation became invincible and resounding slogans of, and the intention of all new arts, while the easel arts, which take sketching, color and technical training in realism as their foundation, not only lost their significance, they became the shackles, a hindrance to new modes of thinking in a new era. Therefore, it naturally follows that they ought to be replaced with unrestrained, unfettered teaching methods––the theoretical origins of this concept takes the fast supplanting of different and various art schools in the Twentieth Century as the essential nature of art historical progression, and views it as a rather blind search for novelty, innovation, and understands the total function of art education as the eradication of outmoded ideas through enlightenment with creative thought.
Decades later, we look back and find those conceptual transitions were trends of the times; they aren’t without their principals, and they allowed for arts reform and the emergence of an unprecedented vigor and entirely new directions in the visual arts. However, because of their overindulgent implementation, partial concepts were overwhelmingly accepted as the whole, and now years later, at this late hour, we are able to observe these issues with a more discriminating gaze.
There are two significant issues within worthy of contemplation:
1) The relationship between limitations or restrictive conditions and the freedom to create. Artistic production, especially art production in the modern era, requires ample spiritual liberties, but this doesn’t suggest the utter elimination of all restraining factors. Easel assignments are one nature of restriction, the technicalities of painterly materials are another; rigorous drills in sketching are also a kind of restriction. Can removing all these restrictions be beneficial to creative potential? It might seem so at a first glance, but with more thought, this is not necessarily true. When we examine these from the perspectives of psychology and art history, a far more complex dialectical relationship is revealed between limitations and creation, one that is worthy of serious contemplation and study.
2) The relationship between artistry and transcendence. (more…)
“Observations on and Predictions for ‘After Postcolonialism’” was a Gao Shiming’s curatorial essay printed in the catalog for the 2008 Third Guangzhou Triennial. It collects and builds upon the rejection of Postcolonial interpretive strategies that was put forth in Xu Jiang and Gao Shiming’s “Globalization,” (see a post on that article here) and provides the framework for Gao’s curatorial strategies in the 3rd Guangzhou Triennial. Almost an decade lies between the first article, and this consequent official “farewell” to Postcolonialism, or what is perceived as Postcolonialism as a factor influencing the production of art. How has a prominent critical discourse in the West, likewise a broad field that might be effectively put to work in China, come to be rejected here? Perhaps more importantly, what comes next?
Key Concepts: Globalization, Postcolonialism, Westernization Key words: “After Postcolonialism,” “two-fold colonization,” “Self-Othering”
Anticipating the flurry of discussion surrounding the provacative exhibition title (“Farewell to Postcolonialism”), Gao rounds up a few key criticisms of his thesis in the introduction to his article: with no former colonization to speak of, why do the Chinese even need to bid farewell to postcolonialism? (From the Chinese side.) He nods to “multiculturalists,” who find the notion politically incorrect, reeking of a return to new forms of colonialism (with the colonizers being the Chinese), or who see the notion of rejecting Postcolonialism as a the rise of new forms of cultural superiority.
But Gao has no interest in debating Postcolonial theory or politics. His purpose here is to express his personal dissatisfaction with the politicization of art and the evident harm that this process (understand to be a by-product of Postcolonial) has done to art.
In his first footnote, Gao expounds on some interesting thoughts about “colonization” in China, stating that she has undergone a “two-fold colonization” (shuangchong zhimin): Westernization and then Anti-Westernization; a technological and then utopian colonization. “Social experiments eliminated “traditional” China, and the experience of the Cultural Revolution left deeper scars on the collective Chinese psychology than colonial memories ever could.” Thus, “Art in the 1980s was unrelated to the so-called Postcolonial experience, the Chinese were rising against the social system and the ‘new traditions’” created in this unique context that had been formulating over the past few decades.
To Gao, Postcolonial is a discourse that is available to everyone, but China’s local discourse is not based in a “Postcolonial reality” and neither does she have a historical experience with colonialism. (He says that China’s 20th century discourse is based in the battle of East-West cultures.) China is familiar with Postcolonialism through experiencing it as a framework, an ideology.
Postcolonialism in the visual arts is a “system for viewing” art (guankan zhidu), and it has its drawbacks: “As a mechanism, it is like a net, only catching that which it is able and willing to catch. Sometimes, it transforms into a productive mechanism, penetrating into the artist’s thoughts.” Later Gao states that his curatorial impetus is to collect the things that fall between the holes in the Postcolonial net, and outside of this “system for viewing.”
Here, in his second footnote, Gao makes some more important points: “China’s 20th Century context is the clash of Eastern and Western cultures. In the beginning of the 20th Century, Chinese intellectuals intermingled various “self-othering” terms into cultural discussions, such as Guocui, and New Confucianism. He asserts that Mao’s “Theory of New Democracy” was extremely similar to Postcolonialism, which he equivocates as the theory of postcolonialism in actual terms as being present in mainstream China much earlier than in the West.
And why should Chinese artists care about Postcolonialism? In a global context––doesn’t matter if you’ve heard of it or not––once an artist participates in any international exhibition, he/she is thrust into this “system for viewing.” To some degree, all artists are caught up in it. (more…)
Gao Shiming and Xu Jiang’s “‘Globalization’ and Chinese Contemporary Art –– written on the occasion of the Kassel Documenta curators’ visit to China”
读许江与高士明的《“全 球概念”与中国当代艺术的境遇——写在卡塞尔文献展艺术策划人访华之际》 的一些感受
The following are some thoughts and some translations while reading Xu Jiang and Gao Shiming’s essay, “‘Globalization’ and Chinese Contemporary Art” (The Chinese title translates more literally as “the notion of Globalization” and the circumstances of Chinese contemporary art.”) I hope to outline the framework of their argument. This text was first published in 2000, and reprinted in the 2008 Third Guangzhou Triennial “Farewell to Post-Colonialism” reader No. 1 (读本一), a Chinese version can be found on the exhibition’s homepage. This text has been circulated widely on the Internet, and the question is, is this a work of “criticism,” or a manifesto of sorts?
Authors Gao Shiming was a curator of the Third Guangzhou Triennial: Farewell to Post-Colonialism” (2008) and is currently on the curatorial team of the 2010 Shanghai Biennial, “Rehearsal.” Xu Jiang is the Dean of the China National Academy of Fine Arts, and one very lively orator.
关键观念：全球化、后殖民主义、 身份、文化多元化、文化他者、“中国性”、“西化”关键词：非西方的西方化，反思着的现代性，沉默的声 音
Key Concepts: Globalization, modernization, Westernization, Post-Colonialism, Multicultural, Identity, Cultural Other, Chineseness.
Key Words: non-Western Westernization, introspective modernity, silent voices
For the sake of brevity, Postcolonalism has been abbreviated to Po Co. The general idea is that Po Co is not applicable in China, and Chinese artists need to creatively assert themselves on a multicultural stage.
“Globalization has caused the West to introspectively reflect on its modernity, especially the various universalisms that this includes.”
“But, amidst the multiculturalism promoted by ‘globalization,’ the strategic misinterpretation and use of Po Co cultural theory to interpret and Chinese contemporary culture and art still exists.”
“Chinese art is facing fortunate opportunities for development like never before, and is likewise experiencing cultural circumstances both of unprecedented complexity and full of paradoxes. In view of the present world’s cultural pluralism, Chinese artists must devote themselves to establishing a new Chinese art rich in imagination and creativity, and not the characteristic monotony of a cultural other.”
So Po Co theory is not applicable in China ( a sentiment that I’ve heard echoed from some students at CAFA, who have said, “why should we apply foreign theories to what’s happening in China?”), and likewise Chinese artists need to make new art that defines them on a multicultural stage.
My reading of this statement sees art creation endowed with a mission to promote a “new Chinese art,” one free from the Western gaze, or free from the “West” as a determinant factor in establishing cultural value. This argument is not new, but here is placed within a framework of Po Co theory and globalization. One valid question that arises is whether or not the same terminology in translation is being interpreted or understood in the same ways across contexts. Po Co as an interpretive model has been looked upon with suspicion in Chinese academia, I believe that it falls outside what ever may be called the mainstream of critical literature, film, and cultural studies in China.
Their argument centers around Okwui Enwezor and the arrival of the Documenta 11 curatorial team in China, a now China-art-world-legendary encounter. Their first stop was the Hangzhou China Academy of Art, where they met with authors Xu Jiang and Gao Shiming, among others. Their question to them was: “What is the West?” The authors are shocked and seem insulted that upon arriving in China, their first question is West-centric (and we assume he should have asked what is ‘China’?) (more…)
2008 主编《’85美术运动》“The ’85 Movement” （上下卷）[Chinese]
Gao Minglu’s “’85 Movement” gives an inclusive perspective and presents the most moving and utopian, most filled with youthful rebelliousness and broadly germinal movement in contemporary Chinese art history. The book is separated into two volumes, the first, “the avant-garde humanities in the 80s” is an updated version of “A History of Chinese Contemporary Art: 1985-1986,” written by Gao Minglu, Zhou Yan, Shu Qun, Wang Xiaochang, Wang Mingxian, Tong Dian, etc. (published by Shanghai People’s Press, 1991). The second half, “Historical Documents,” is a collection of documents edited by Gao and organized both chronologically and thematically. The two volumes equal more than one thousand pages, with photos and text that mutually enhance each other, the voluminous weight of these books attest to the importance of this history.
Gao Minglu was an active participant and the theoretical bannerman for the ’85 Movement, using “85” as the name of the new wave, it is his intention to echo the May Fourth new culture movement that happened earlier in the century. Therefore, the ’85 Movement is not only a contemporary art movement, but even more is a thought movement, a cultural movement. In Gao’s opinion, the achievements of the ’85 Movement are not the production of a few masters, but is in this trend’s process of development of a lifestyle.
From the perspective of how much time it took to compile this book, it has been twenty years in the making. In between the recollections of eye-witnesses and historians, Gao Minglu’s idealism and consciousness of the common man was consistently there. Idealism endowed historians with a critical perspective, and the consciousness of the common man caused historians to turn their attention from the masters to the “art plebeians.” Gao stresses the “collective” character of the New Wave, and its lack of representative figures. Thus, in the “Historical Documents” section, he preserves such a great amount of artist collectives and movements that might seem insignificant from today’s point of view. However, this is the reality of history. “We don’t regret for the disappearance, not recording the vanished is in fact our shame.” This statement, written by Gao Minglu in the 80s, still affirms his beliefs two decades later.
This publication follows the successive exhibitions of New Wave artists at UCCA and another on the origins of the Stars, but its value is far greater. The art historian Wu Hung has said that this collection of primary sources will eventually lay a foundation for future historians. The artist Xu Bing believes that this book reflects and advocates a kind of complete attitude, an authenticity that Chinese intellectuals are gradually losing. (translation mine)
’85 Art Movement (volume I): The Enlightenment of Chinese Avant-Garde
Gao Minglu, Forward to the Re-edited Version
Gao Minglu, Forward to the First Edition
Introduction: A History of Contemporary Art as A General Historiography
Chapter I: A General Picture of the Art in the New Period (1976-1984
) Chapter II: Confronting with ’85 Avant-Garde – Academician Art and Traditional Art in the 1980s
Chapter III: the Wave of Rationalism
Chapter IV: the Current of Life
Chapter V: Transcendence and Return – New Wave Art after ’85 Avant-Garde
Chapter VI: Architecture of the 1980s Chapter VII: Modern Art and Culture
Chronology of Chinese Contemporary Art: 1977-1989
List of Foreign Names (bilingual)
Gao Minglu: Afterward of the First Edition
Liu Dong: Postscript
’85 Art Movement (volume II): An Anthology of Historical Sources
Gao Minglu, Preface
Chapter I: Non-official Art Societies and Exhibitions after the Cultural Revolution
Chapter II: Summary and Review of ’85 Art Movement
Chapter III: the Wave of Rationalism
Chapter IV: the Current of Life
Chapter V: Conceptual Art, Action and Anti-Art
Chapter VI: Script of TV Documentary “Today’s New Wave Art” (more…)
The following is a complete list of Gao Minglu’s publications in English and Chinese, with synopsis (when available) and table of contents in both English and Chinese, to reveal Chinese language information, click 中文 to your right.
1991 主编《中国当代美术史》editor of “The History of Contemporary Chinese Art” [Chinese only]
1997《中国当代美术史（1985—1986）》“The History of Contemporary Chinese Art (1985-1986)” [Chinese only]
1. A short retrospective––concepts of art in a new era
2. Clues on a movement
3. Tides of rationality
4. The current of life
5. The ’85 New Wave beyond return
6. The choice of traditional or modern
7. Style and plurality
8. Modern art
One: New, Old traditions: self-improvement and the collective Utopia
The history and future of Chinese painting (part one)
The background unfolds to Chinese modern art and its development
Discussing Mao Zedong’s Model for Public Art
Two: Post Cultural Revolution: The humanism of Aestheticism and Scars
Painting schools in recent oil painting development
The disillusionment of utopia
The end of a creative era
From Aestheticism to New Academicism
“Style” and “ultra-style”
Three: the Chinese avant-garde as a movement, not a school
Collective and Individual consciousness in contemporary painting
Comparison on three levels
The ’85 Movement
A discussion with Gao Minglu
The status and significance of New Wave art within the structure of Contemporary art in China
On Rational Painting
Avant-garde and humanities––Anti-Utopian Utopia in the ’85 Movement
From art criticism to critical art
The conflicts and challenges of an foreign culture battlefield
Moving towards postmodernism––a letter to Ren Jian
The Chinese cultural battlefield on native soil
Kitsch, Power, Complicity
Four: Avant-garde art and modern consciousness
New Yangwu and New “National Essence” (guocui)
Modern Consciousness and the ’85 Movement
Consciousness of the “cultural vanguard” and the ’85 Movement
Culture and Fine Art, on the margins of fine art and the cultural arts
The spatial function and forms of sculpture
When we are in dialogue, we need to broaden our hearts
All history is contemporary history: contemporary art history as general history
“Chinese Avant-Garde Art” published list of articles and titles
1998 “Inside Out: New Chinese Art” [English only]
Inside Out is the catalog for a groundbreaking exhibition organized by the Asia Society in New York, with venues also in San Francisco, Seattle, and Monterrey, Mexico. It discusses the first major presentation in the West of contemporary Chinese art and is the most important critique of the field to date. As they pursue their personal visions, Chinese artists tread between two extremes: embracing or rejecting their classical tradition. It is not easy for a Chinese artist to break away from such a rich treasury. For example, many works in the show deal with the written word–that most valued of China’s art forms, with its dual connotations of calligraphic beauty and obsessive ritualistic copying. Song Dong writes on a flat stone with water that quickly evaporates; Xu Bing invents witty, new, but meaningless characters. Understanding a work may require acquaintance with the classics: a suspended boat impaled with arrows harks back to a third-century general who sent straw-filled boats down-river to attract hostile fire, retrieved the boats, and collected his enemies’ arrows to use against them. There is an implicit anti-West message here. Other works, including installation, video, and performance art, have universal connotations that owe nothing to Chinese conventions. Contemporary Chinese art has been around for less than 20 years, but the freshness and variety of the work described in this book indicate that an original new force has joined the global art community. (John Stevenson via amazon.com)
Towards a Transnational Modernity: An overview of Inside Out (Gao Minglu)
Across Trans-Chinese Landscapes: Reflections on Contemporary Chinese Cultures (Leo Ou-Fan Lee)
The Post-Ideological Avant-Garde (Norman Bryson)
Ruins, Fragmentation and the Chinese Modern/Postmodern (Wu Hung)
Beyond The Middle Kingdom: An Insider’s View (Chang Tsong-Zung)
From Elite to Small Man: The Many Faces of a Transitional Avant-Garde in Mainland China (Gao Minglu)
Striving for a Cultural Identity in the Maze of Power Struggles: A Brief Introduction to the development of contemporary art in Taiwan (Victoria Y. Lu)
Found in Transit: Hong Kong Art in a Time of Change (David Clarke)
Strategies of Survival in the Third Space: A Conversation on the Situation of Chinese Artists overseas in the 1990s (Hou Hanru and Gao Minglu)
2001《世纪乌托邦：大陸前衛藝術》（台湾） “Century Utopia: Avant-garde Art on the Mainland” (Taiwan) [Chinese only]
2003《中国及多主义》”Chinese Maximalism” [Chinese only]
“Chinese Maximalism” analyzes the characteristics of these “Chinese” “maximalists” through the different angles of contemporary background, Chinese traditional thought and its differences from Western abstract art. The author takes off from specific theories and works, and from the angles of the contextual relationship between the works themselves and their creative contexts, analyze this unique artistic phenomenon and its “significance.” The author points out, Chinese “Maximalist” art is not a personal expression, and neither is it an “abstract” representation of the exterior world, but is an inseparable part of these artists’ artistic philosophy and life philosophy. It is an exploration of the crystallization of an an artistic method that contributes to the fusion of the traditional and contemporary. Until today, “Chinese Maximalism” and extreme repetition, process, quantity and other linguistic forms filled with dismissive criticisms of a semantic fashion. At the same time, art inspired us to think about the establishment of a new contemporary art and the importance of and sense of urgency in artists’ personal awareness. (translation mine)
Chinese Maximalism: An Alternative “Metaphysical Art”
An Introduction: The Definition of Maximalism and its Artistic Context
Critiques on the Methodology of Chinese Maximalism
Conclusion: Maximalism is a Methodology to be Shared
Maintaining this already wonderful site is now one of my responsibilities, and finally getting off the AWW manuscript to MIT Press, and the new year hibernation, etc…. The 2010 spring thaw will bring wonderful things, and happily, with most of my editorial energies pouring into the artforum.com.cn site, sinopop can become become more personalized, more suibian, and a place for stories and ideas that don’t fit the scope of the other site.
Please look for us in the future, as we hope to start adding some new Chinese language columns to the artforum site, attempting to add some thoughtful content and commentary to a crowded cybersphere of art news from China, of various qualities.
朋友们、亲爱的读者， 非常抱歉！最近忙一堆事没有更新博客。今年要开始投入美国artforum杂志网站的中文版，担任一些编辑的工作。 如果你还不熟悉，应该过来看，网站上有大量的杂志译文，也有亚洲地区的展评。
随着我的在官方网站的参与，之后sinopop的内容就更加自由， 更随便和主观一些， 我会尽量把“严肃艺术编辑”的精神集中在artforum.com.cn了。（如果您，读者还没有看到此精神，请不要急––之后有人赞助我就好说！哈！）
I haven’t seen the biopic on Confucius, Kongzi yet, but I can already tell it’s going to be a doozy. Chow Yun-fat’s omniscient face looming in the heavens on the film poster, and his self-bemused, wizened sage smirk on the film stills is one hint, and recent dogged attempts at drumming up nationalism through culture and the arts is another.
Since I am not a Chinese, and non-Chinese are simply not allowed to mock things Chinese (especially Kongzi) even in good spirit, I figure I’ll do like other bloggers and just rip off Han Han’s brilliant post this morning, entitled, “Watching Kongzi.” Read the Chinese here: 韩寒： 《看孔子》
“…To tell you the truth, I’ve never thought there was a need to turn these classic stories into films. From a film perspective, the moment such films are born, they become the antithesis filmmaking, strangling creativity. But if you say that China’s movies with classical-historical themes show no creativity, that’s not right either, because those scriptwriters are often writing incredibly counter-historical scenes, the situation is tangled. And thus the reason why a vast majority of big-budget Chinese films are borrowing classical themes and historical figures is because their investors have lack a sense of security, they hesitate to invest such a great amount of money on some plotline dreamed up by some dubious director. Occasionally, there comes along a director who has an enormous investment, and the freedom to write their own screenplay––the resulting films are even worse. And such is China’s tragic history of film. According to Chou Yun-fat, people who watch this movie and don’t cry cannot be human, I can believe this is his delusion, and I’m sure that during the in-house screenings, all of the producers cried. They cried thinking about how many elementary school students and governmental organizations they will have to drag to the theaters just to break even.
Let’s forget about all political reasons and look at the film itself, it is a failure of a film. The sermonizing in the film isn’t infective at all, when Kongzi is talking about propriety and benevolence in the film, the guy next to me was having a ten-minute long conversation on his cell phone. …
Finally, I want to say that the film Kongzi, no matter if it’s from the point of view of the significance of film, profits, artistic pursuits, film exploration, educational enlightenment, warning or admonishing the public, audio-visual experience, entertainment, or documentation of history, there is no need for this film to exist. This film could be erased completely from film history.”
Despite all this, I’m still happy that Avatar was pulled from the theaters just to make room for this film.
The illusion of global culture has been shattered by recent events with Google.cn, and Hillary’s speech on the “freedom to connect.” China’s official response to “so-called Internet freedom” makes me shudder, are we truly entering a virtual cold war? At the very least, films like this should prove the national agenda is still filtered through culture, remember Founding a Nation? At the least, its one more attempt by China’s film industry to harmonize ticket sales and pleasing the film censors. Yes, I will see Kongzi, because who can’t appreciate the wry irony of watching the former “God of Gambling” play the sagely man of morals Confucius? It’s like a national face lift. Well, I’ll see in on DVD anyways…
Perhaps artists like to think of themselves as harbingers of social change, at least think they like to imagine themselves on the vanguard of something. In China, they seem more like backseat drivers. However, the world’s fasting urbanizing nation is heaving forward in myriad expressions, and relentlessly posing challenges to the entire globe with a host of issues that will shape the next decade.Urban China is a magazine that has hovered on the fringes of the art world since it was founded four years, it examines various urban issues in themed monthly issues, featuring intellectuals, artists and social scientists writing on topics such as Chinese creativity, education, migration, or Chinatowns. URBAN CHINA: Work in Progress (Timezone8, 2009), is a new publication co-edited by magazine founder Jiang Jun and Brendan McGetrick that seems to reiterate the supremacy of the urban machine over the artist’s ego, as the book itself grew out of a series of questions that emerged from UC’s participation in Documenta 12 (2007). (more…)
Sometimes, in the spirit of preserving our mental health (and also following the sound example of many Chinese citizens) we block out the droves of nincompoopery political advertising that inundates Beijing’s population during political festivals. However, China’s 60th anniversary recently passed, and left behind a rich trail of propaganda and harmonious good-tidings that begs to be deciphered by the twisted minds who are so inclined to pay interest to such mass messages from the state.
Thus it follows, a Chinese lesson for all souls who wish to join the“family,” as delivered to you by the creamy voices of Jackie Chan and favored Party chanteuse Liu Yuanyuan. The first video below was the National Day ‘debut’ of the patriotic song, written especially for the 60th anniversary and sung in The Square complemented by hundreds of jubilant dancers.
Please note the harmonious joy of China’s minorities as they dance happily in unison in The Square, this is very likely the favored past time of all the 56 minorities. This joyous display (which later incorporates Hu Jintao, Wen Jiabao, etc.) of course also indicates that even though we may be wearing different satin costumes, or of economic classes, our common ground is here: dancing below the benevolent face of the great leader.
Which brings us to our lesson, where we focus on three words:
国 GUO (kingdom––the simplified character is a composite of characters for “jade”surrounded by a “mouth”）
家 JIA (family, home––literally a “pig” covered with a “roof tile”)
国家 GUOJIA (nation, country, state––the combination of the above two characters)
The Chinese for “China” is 中国 ZHONGGUO (中=middle, inside) All of this word dissection is vital to understanding the first two lines of the song. Pay attention!
Now, due to the ingenious word play in this clever song, the appropriate words will be substituted below: GUO, JIA & GUOJIA.
Note that each time “JIA” is sung, one or both singers makes the sign language signal for “home.” Special note for Cai Guo-Qiang fans, he was the “General Director” of the fireworks display you see at the end of the video.
(China based readers can see it on Sina here)
一玉口中国 Jade inside a mouth––ZHONGGUO
一瓦顶成家 Add a roof tile for a JIA
都说国很大 everyone says the GUO is large
其实一个家 but actually, it’s a JIA
一心装满国 A heart laden with GUO
一手撑起家 a hand props up JIA
家是最小国 JIA is the smallest GUO
国是千万家 a GUO is ten million JIAs
在世界的国 In the World’s GUO
在天地的家 and the JIA of heaven and earth,
有了强的国 having a strong GUO
才有富的家 makes for a wealthy JIA
国的家住在心里 The JIA of the GUO lives in your heart
家的国以和矗立 the GUO of the JIA stands upright with harmony
国是荣誉的毅力 GUO is the perseverance of glory
家是幸福的洋溢 JIA is brimming with prosperity
国的每一寸土地 every inch of the GUO’s soil
家的每一个足迹 every footprint in the JIA
国与家连在一起 GUO and JIA are joined together
创造地球的奇迹 to bring about a planetary marvel
国是我的国 This GUO is my GUO
家是我的家 This JIA is my JIA
我爱我的国 I love my GUO
我爱我的家 I love my JIA
我爱我国家 I love my GUOJIA!!!
And here, one more time, you have Jackie’s MV version. It features more happy minorities, students reciting their lesson (“GUO, JIA, GUOJIA”), and even some thoughtful calligraphers demonstrating how to write the characters. Later, superstar pianist Lang Lang makes an appearance for a solo played in the Great Hall of the People. (more…)
In a CCTV documentary titled “798″, photographer Zhu Yan made the comment: “The factory workers displaced the farmers, the artists displaced the workers, and now…” but the director left out what should have followed, “… the tourists displaced the artists.”
Of course, the myth that 798 is a “cultural production zone” is perpetuated by the mainland media, and almost obsolete industrial patches across China look to the success of 798 as a model of “cultural industry”, a revival area preserving the remnants of an industrial past, but where creativity and commerce can meet to copulate and produce healthy economic offspring.
While that may be a lovely image, the fact is, there is some truth to it. The documentary is a rather sobering look at the quickly vanishing former life of “798″––Factory 718. In the 1950s it was a state of the art center of production, a place of national pride, and a household name that symbolized a better future. Workers were hand-picked for their class background, plucked from the fields and clad in blue to make radio electronics, among other classified military gear; they worked with some of the most “avant-garde” technologies of the day. Military components aside, none of this sounds unfamiliar with the tourist “cultural production zone” we know as 798.
Fifty years later, the changes are incredible. In the five-part documentary we meet laid-off former workers who are now janitorial staff, and the dwindling industrial staff (once more than 10,000, now less than 3000) tells stories of the past: homes of the newly-wed were furnished with a bed, a desk and a cabinet (many had never had their own bed), 8 hour shifts were followed by night school, and infants were picked up from an parking-lot sized nursery, while not-yet school aged children were locked in the one-room apartments while their parents “struggled” to build a strong China. “None of this was looked at as strange,” comments Ms. Gao, who still works in th ecomplex. Her last student, Ding Ding, a young worker and his very dour wife are filmed in their run-down apartment; his 700 RMB monthly salary is barely enough to feed them. I don’t think I can stomach buying a substandard 35 RMB coffee there ever again.
With nary a mention of contemporary art, the series is a historical and grimly patriotic portrait of a very different 798; it was filmed in late 2007/early 2008. The CCTV site has photos and some historical background here. I thought of an article translated last year for the Timezone8 book “Beijing 798 Now” on the former incarnation of Factory 718. It is especially interesting to read how earthquake standards in construction had to be enforced by the East German engineering team. Its a long article, but has some interesting facts. For Chinese, switch languages on upper right.
From 718 to 798
Dashanzi: Beijing’s northeast corner
This district has already experienced two drastic turns of fate. First, fifty years ago, when the 718 was constructed and made a name for itself across China, and now, as the rise of the 798 Art District has brought a “renaissance” to the district, carrying its name overseas. Factory 718 was the celebrated former incarnation, and was one just short of legendary. During China’s “First Five Year plan” era, and with the support of the German Democratic Republic and Chinese national professionals, young people from all corners of the nation converged to build this northern Chinese state-owned factory for radio electronics—it was to be the birthplace of China’s electronics industry. In the beginning, Factory 798 was merely the third stage of the larger Factory 718 compound, and it lay on the outskirts of Beijing. However, this district has already been swallowed by the city’s growth, and become Chaoyang District’s first cultural industries zone, and yet still maintains its status as a center of production for Zhongguancun Electronics.
Today, the symbolic Bauhaus architectural complex still stands, the complex has been entrusted with the industrial history of a city. The transformation from 718 to 798 documents the course of urban industrial restructuring.
The Birth of 718
In April of 1951 the second round of Sino-Soviet summit talks were held in Moscow, China’s request for Soviet aid in the building of 156 major projects was on the table for discussion. However, the Soviets felt that China’s request to help establish the foundations for a new radio electronics industry was too unexpected.
Yin Jinan wrote “Knocking on the door alone” as a response to the urgings of many who thought that his position as chair of the Central Academy of Fine Art’s art history department and as a “close-up” observer, warranted a publication. The second book “Post-motherism” (will follow in separate review) is a compilation of years of art criticism published in his column in duzhe magazine 《读者》also entitled “knocking”, duzikoumen “独自叩门”. The implied meaning of this title is: when we look at art we are always seeking a personal interpretation, and our individual experiences inform our reading.
The essays range from 1988, in an essay on the joint exhibition of Lu Shengzhong and Xu Bing at the National Museum of Art, “新潮美术的转折点” (The turning point of the New Wave), to 1992 (in dialogue with Sui Jianguo). Yin’s connections with art are very influenced by his proximity to the art academy, and to many artists who were making important names, such as Liu Xiaodong and Yu Hong, Wang Guangyi, Huang Yongping, Sun Xinping and a host of other young painters whom he calls the “New Generation Painters.” These were the emerging generation of artists who were establishing a new POV, moving away from the collectivism of the 1970s and 1980s and depicting personal experiences. Yin’s style is clear and dry, funny at times but aggressively confident when critical.
The book also includes ample writing on Xu Bing, the outrageously well-attended first nude oil painting exhibition in early 1989, and writings on the China / Avantgarde exhibition in 1989, on Chinese modernism and more. Posted below is an essay from this book on “New Generation Artists”, it was translated for a forthcoming publication on Chinese contemporary art from the Museum of Modern Art. To read Chinese version, please switch languages on the upper right hand.
NEW GENERATION AND CLOSE UP ARTISTS
Modern Chinese art in the early Nineties is endowed with a certain temporal significance. In the moment when our historical imagination collides with actual landscapes, anyone is able to intuitively identify the fundamental elements belonging to the scope of art history. The literary world’s “age of prose” is precisely coincident with the art world’s period of realism without an artistic manifesto, and settling into their peaceful lifestyles, these artists have created an enormous cultural rift from the maddening infatuation with the explosive and dysphoric concepts that before them. This re-examination and questioning of traditional artistic values and art of the New Wave firstly did not arise from within the theoretical world, but from the creative one. A few stirring solo and group art exhibitions that took place in 1990 and 1991 silently expressed a very confident artistic attitude, a group of young artists born in the 1960s thus emerged onto the scene.
until April 6 @ Star Gallery
In a drastic departure from her works on canvas, Yang Fan has produced a carpet of colorful poof-balls that she culled from the storerooms of clothing and toy factories in her native Guangdong. Yang Fan is formerly known for her series of paintings of young women in fashion plate style, the series, ever popular with Asian collectors, did not resonate with Western audiences.
When she began working on the project last year, she mentioned that the idea came to her while visiting clothing factories in China’s south. In what might have evolved from more “crafty” origins, this work culminates in her scouring of southern factories for unwanted bits and bobs, a new representation of the stories behind the cast-offs, and timely with the massive layoffs in the south.
An essay accompanying the catalogue is presented below. I translated it, but also enjoyed it for some valuable insights on her early works.
Li Zhanyang – ‘Rent’ – Rent Collection Yard
Galerie Urs Meile | 26 April – 24 August, 2008
Li Zhanyang’s solo show is a worthy visit this season, he has modeled his collection of sculptures on an “instructional” collective artwork that was commissioned during the Cultural Revolution. Instead of featuring the landlords, rapists, suffering and poor of the original, substitutes high-profile characters from the world of Chinese contemporary art. His commentary, his drole means of representing these folk, and his skillful adaption of the original is intelligent and timely. Due to the historical and social nature of this work, it is best appreciated through accompanying texts, below are excerpts from the gallery press release and a translation of Ai Weiwei’s response to the artist.
text: Nataline Colonnello (the following is extracted from the gallery press release)
‘Rent’ – Rent Collection Yard (2007) is the title of the largest and most complex sculptural installation Li Zhanyang (born 1969, Jilin Province, China) has ever created. Taking eighteen months of production after nearly a decade of conceptual incubation, Li Zhanyang’s ‘Rent’ – Rent Collection Yard is a humorous and subjective look at the Chinese contemporary art scene. It is informed by the artist’s personal experience. Characters, both local and international, are brought to life. The 34 life-size coloured fiberglass figures of this installation are modeled after the likeness of various people familiar to the artist – among them international celebrities as well as some only known in Chinese contemporary art circles. They include Chinese and Western artists, curators, collectors, gallery owners, gallery assistants, and art students. The gathered subjects were chosen according to their public or professional roles. Displayed on a real stage they were designed to showcase each figure in a striking a pose – dramatic or absurd, some of them with imbuing mordant satire. Following six conceptual themes (Paying Rent, Foot Washing, Raping, Oppressing, Dying a Martyr, and History Observed), the sculptures are spread throughout three exhibition spaces of Galerie Urs Meile in Beijing. The congregation seemingly gathered or juxtaposed is part of a broader and fabricated narrative revealing latent conflicts and power relations – the dirt underneath the high-gloss surface of the art world. The artist places his fiberglass alter ego amidst the other characters, representing himself by gazing intently into the darkness of the spectators. And among the spectators, Li Zhanyang places two exceptional figures in the front row: Joseph Beuys and Mao Zedong (in History Observed). Beuys, one of the most influential figures in the modern contemporary art scene, is expounding on the dynamic and chaotic interplay in front of them with a wild and passionate gesture beside the icon and father figure of revolutionary China.
The work is a contemporary transposition of the story of landlord Liu Wencai. During the revolutionary era, Liu Wencai was a victim of political muckraking and depicted as a brutal exploiter of the peasants.
(Beijing, 19 May 2008) Andy Warhol abruptly left the city and the people so familiar to him, the sounds, the colors and their warmth, just over 20 years ago. The moment he was gone the world was changed. This wasn’t an arrow propelled from a bow, but the bow (and the world that held it) falling from the arrow, separated in an instant and forever.
Everything in Andy’s life seemed pretentious, a kaleidoscope of colors and extravagance. Like a prophet who can truly see through the confines of time, long before the true arrival of the era that he prophesized, anything within his sight was magnified, duplicated over and over and thereby rendered emotionally and mentally fractured and emptied. Time and men could be equally splendid and extraordinary, and at the same time so insignificant.
Andy was attached to that world so filled with uncertainty, even though the same world similarly distrusted him. Till the very end they shared a hard to define mutual resentment; together temporarily, and likewise forever separated, something like a remarkably original decree blurted out but swallowed back up, all it leaves behind is astonishment.
The absurd thing is that one day in 1982, Andy arrived by happenstance in this unfamiliar nation. The people here were still drowsy under the artifice of a communist government, every face wore the same simple shyness. At these geographical coordinates, not a single person expressed interest in the artist. No one recognized that mask-like face infamous throughout the rest of the world. And although Andy made innumerable portraits of famous figures, the most famous among them was ironically the archetypical representation of this transitional national leader in China, a portrait that he painted hundreds of times. The ubiquitous portrait caused Mao Zedong to be looked upon as a god in China. However, in Andy’s rendering, the allegorical force of Mao’s portrait was made conventional, its enormity made neutral, objectified, emptied of its moral value as well as its aesthetic intent. (more…)
Joy Art: April 19-May 30
Curatorial text / Liu Ding
For many years Sui Jianguo has used his art practice to contemplate and expand upon sculptural concepts and forms. He also employs related media, video, installation and performance to reflect and discuss the changing patterns in our social lives and the forces and mechanisms that shape our social patterns. In Joy Art’s second project “Revealing Traces” Sui Jianguo unfolds his research through the extracting and presentation of molding and the enlargement process of a small clay model; he also examines the social phenomenon that is the transformation of individual will into the public will.
Generally, in the sculpture creation process, the sculptor first makes a complete small-scale model, workers then enlarge it to the artist’s specified dimensions, and lastly it is molded into an artwork in a different material. In the “Revealed Fragments” project, Sui Jianguo personally created small-scale clay models of three different forms, he then intentionally covered their surfaces with his fingerprints. According to the general procedures for modeling and enlargement of these small sculptural models, Sui used workers to first mold his clay models into silica gel molds, then from these molds they were molded into plaster; following this, a laser mapped out the appearance of the plaster model and marked coordinate locations on a grid. This “virtual grid” of the plaster model was then enlarged more than 10 times according to an actual and comprehensive positioning system; these circular coordinates were blown up according to a “circular enlargement” process. An iron frame and wooden supports were constructed according to the requirements dictated by the new dimensions; then wooden rings were built around the wooden supports. Accordingly, the sculpture’s clay frame was built upon these wooden rings, thus completing the basic mold for the enlarged model. The workers then completed the model according to the now enlarged circular coordinates, accurately representing the handprints of the artist’s original model. Ultimately, the artist’s clay sculpture is perfectly enlarged ten times its original size; it becomes an enormous sculpture with monumental quality.
Wang Di and Mao-era architecture
text / Yin Jinan
Architecture always employs its historical presence to construct our landscapes, and the “objectivity” of architecture is not always reflected in its mere functionality. As a historical relic itself, it already is the target of every observer’s objectivity; even if the person is imaginative, architecture remains a realistic departure point for the machinations of just such a person.
I often think: what would it be like were a historian or a sociologist to take up a camera and photograph architecture as a historical entity? Undoubtedly, the camera is a more “objective” tool then other recording methods, and this is precisely what historians and sociologists strive for––though none of them are capable.
Wang Di has photographed some of Beijing’s structures. These buildings have their own history; they were all built in Mao’s era, and the spirit and culture of Mao Zedong’s era are embodied within them. From them we garner a visual sense of people in the Mao-era, their class concepts and their historical relation to these buildings. Wang Di’s motivation to photograph these buildings is derived from his personal experiences growing up as well as a special fondness for them. Through his photographic process he has gradually merged into the world of sociological methodology and perspective with these historic buildings that bear the weight of Mao-era cultural ideology with their physical form, and they are dying off–– (more…)
text / Ar Cheng
Let me describe for readers a brain process: we see an image, our retinae take the image to the thalamus, and the thalamus converts it into code (as a computer would turn the same image into binary code of ones and zeros), it is then saved in the hippocampus (which is shaped like a seahorse, whose scientific name is Hippocampus). At the same time the Amygdala (which is shaped like an almond, whose scientific name is Amygdalus) saves correlated emotional memories such as fear or joy. Thus when we see a wolf, for example, we feel fear. If the Amygdala of a certain person is removed or damaged, when such a person sees the same wolf their brain will not produce fear, they would only know that there was a wolf. The normal person would run, but this person would not. We ordinarily call people whose emotional response is different than ours a “fool.”
Our brains are linked to the images we see, and many memories are correspondingly stored, smells, tactile sensations, sound and temperature for example.
Under normal circumstances, our judgment of images and emotions is linked; the issue is really, what emotions are associated with which images. (more…)