Recently, an American friend in Beijing told me about the fear of carbohydrates shaking down health/diet freaks in that nation. Here in 798, we scoff at gluten fears, and have produced a cross cultural dish that can put any fortune cookie to shame. Behold, the spaghetti dog: A toasted white flour bun brimming with crisp pan fried wheat vermicelli that has been tossed with bean sprouts and leek tips.This offering was spotted in an advertisement outside a small corner cafe in 798, the hot dog bun gives away its true identity as “Western food,” and testifies to the cosmopolitan nature of Beijing’s art zones. Wash it down, and kick yourself out of that digestive slump with a cup of pitch-black coffee. A little taste of “the West,” right here in 798. The photo is a photograph taken outside the restaurant. I did not indulge in the spaghetti dog.The artful placement of the two onion sprigs inspires me, I would love to treat any willing readers to a spaghetti dog. Just get in touch, this place sells churros too.
The 8th Shanghai Biennale “Rehearsal” began in June 2010, and will include four acts. Act I, the “Ho Chi Minh Trail” was in cooperation with the Long March Project, and will be implemented in Beijing from June through September, 2010.”Rehearsal Act I” takes the the Long March Project’s ongoing Ho Chi Minh Trail as a case study to verify the idea of “cultural creation” and explore the significance of paradigm shifts from “creation” to “rehearsal.”
This rehearsal will serve as a platform for artworks and ideas in China, Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. The rehearsal will also provide an opportunity to discuss the role of art and ideas in redefining the combination of “ego-history-society.” The Ho Chi Minh Trail includes stages of research (2008-2009), an educational forum (July 2009), field trips (June to July 2010), Rehearsal Act I (September to November 2010), the “theatre” (October 2010 to February 2011) and a later archive of knowledge. The “rehearsal” and “theatre” components will be included in the Shanghai Biennale 2010.
(the above was excerpted from an article by Gao Shiming, it will be included in the forthcoming “Art in China” magazine, published in co-operation with Contemporary Art & Investment and Iberia Center for Contemporary Art.
Wu Shanzhuan 吴山专
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. Read the rest of this entry »
On September 16, 2010, Professor W.J.T. Mitchell, of the University of Chicago visited the Central Academy of Fine Arts for a lecture which he titled “World Pictures.”
Mitchell could be called a “picture theorist,” but he wasn’t interested in how pictures move around the world, instead, taking off from Heidegger’s “world of pictures,” he examined how we envision the world, and the inherent dangers withinespecially relevant in our globalized age.
He deconstructed five terms, Global (a la Marshal McLuhan’s “global village”), the Planetary (within a system), Cosmos (abstract and mathematical, a dialectic of opposites as in Yin and Yang), World (of flesh, and an underworld) and Earth (or Terra, upon which we stand).
Heidegger, didn’t advocate a picture of the world, but believed that through science and technology, we have turned the concept of the world into a picture.
And Freud argued that science was incapable provide a worldview, only religion can, but he wasn’t an advocate of religion. Mitchell disagrees with the both of them. His mission is to identify the false world picture and struggle against it. World pictures have infiltrated all levels of society and of our imagination, aided through technology.
Google earth has mapped out the world, we can go anywhere on the planet, we can zoom in and see our rooftops, but there is major discrepancy with this image and reality–– when we zoom in, we will never bring the image into reality.
This is the “partial view” of the world that we will always be relegated to. Heidegger again says that the “world picture” corrupts the imagination, and Freud says that we must not create a world picture, even though there are deep dangers in religion. The truth is, says Mitchell, we are a “world at war,” and we should be opposing notions of “global terror.”
Mitchell’s speech ended on a Hong Hao image, the “New Political Map,” part of the artist’s series of silkscreened prints entitled “Selected Scriptures” (see more here). In this map, the artist has brilliantly played on an almost universally familiar map projection, but has scrambled national borders, most significantly replacing the United States of America with “the People’s Republic of China.”
Artist, Xu Bing, now the vice-president of CAFA, and sitting in the front row raised his hand with a question: What is the relation between philosopher and artist? And how is Mitchell reading the map? To gasps of surprise from the 400 plus audience, he pointed out the vague, but distinct figure of a horse just above the “new P.R.C,” which has been cleverly named “Israel” (interpreted by Mitchell as having plenty of territory to expand in), and the profile of a man where Brazil should be, which was replaced with Holland.
Mitchell turns around to look at the image on the screen behind him; it’s unclear from the grin on his face whether or not he had noticed. But nonetheless, the muted sound of two worlds colliding filled the room, and I wondered how many new possibilities for envisioning the world could be unleashed in the Chinese language, especially once we considered the ancient Chinese worldview.
Every now and then, when my eyes blur over with red, I refresh my mind with kitsch of the American variety. After all, one’s home culture is like their mother tongue, a system of symbols that we speak the most fluently, and ultimately react to most viscerally. This might explain why, in bouts of homesickness, I’ll pass on the pizza and watch Beyoncé on Youtube instead.Pop culture viewed through the filter of geographic distance allows for a very different analytical perspective. And as the largest global exporter of culture, we Americans should be aware that the rest of the world doesn’t interpret Gaga or Michael in the same way. And this works both ways. Many non-Chinese living in China find television galas, etc. “kitschy,” something culturally inferior and laughable.Last week, while watching Katy Perry’s performance on the Today Show (on Youtube here), the amazing similarities of Chinese and American culture struck me. From outside in, American culture can be just as spectacularly kitschy, pointlessly elaborate and ridiculous as any Chinese television gala could ever aspire to be.Of course, this is obvious. But I thought it would be fun to draw a comparison here, a trip through the looking glass into our respective pink, glittery, dreamlands gracing national broadcasting.此条有新的中文版，请按右手的“中文”让它显示 Read the rest of this entry »
Even “socialism with special characteristics” has its downside, and according to Hu Jintao, in an address to his comrades at the CPC’s 22nd “collective study” session on the 23rd of July, that downside is threefold, a triumvirate of debased culture: san su. The result is the “anti-vulgarity” (反三俗) campaign.Urging politburo members to promote “the development and glory of socialist culture,” Hu launched a fight against vulgar (庸俗), cheap (低俗) and tasteless (媚俗) cultural content. These have various interpretation in the English press, although I prefer philistine (庸俗), tasteless (低俗) and kitsch (媚俗).
The cause of debased culture seems to be money worship, and is framed as a negative result of China’s move to a market economy. The BBC has some coverage here. Some television dating programs accused of propagating “debased” culture were already taken off the air, and the immense popularity of the TV serial remake of “Dream of the Red Chamber,” which showed near naked ladies in their boudoir fanned the flames. The 18th Century novel, although written in the vernacular, and was certainly not literati reading material, is definitely sacred territory in the Chinese cultural heritage department (can’t wait for the boxed set).
On August Culture Minister Cai Wu addressed the “vulgarity” in the cultural sector, with a “Confucian classics-thumping” fury not unlike conservative traditionalists of a century ago: “We produce some 400 movies and hundreds of TV drama programs each year, but how many of them will be recognized as classics?”And further, “In today’s world, a country’s culture and economy are inseparable. A government must pay more attention to culture and originality if it wants to improve the quality of economic development.” (source China Daily)
Some are saying that all this moral crusading is leading up to a new cultural revolution. Although that seems like a steep accusation, its clear that “Cultural Sector Reforms” are approaching (see the official break down on Xinhua here), and will first be reflected in mass media outlets like television and magazine publishing.
But what does this mean for contemporary art? Well, Liang Shuo should watch his back. The artist’s “kitsch” aesthetic seemed constantly under attack from Chinese critics who feel his work is merely performing a “Chineseness” to foreign audiences. (Pauline Yao has a review of his recent show here on eFlux) But I somehow feel my favorite brand of “red kitsch” isn’t in danger at all…
UPDATE: The LA Times has a story on crosstalker Guo Degang, the highest profile celeb to fall victim to the war on “Kitsch.”
Traveling out West, tea migrated to bowls, and as we approached the Ottoman Empire, the coffee seemed easier to find than a dish of home-style tofu. Here are a few of my favorite images from this daily ritual, Western-China style.
In honor of Evan Osnos’s “Pardon Me, Would You Have Any Pabst Blue Ribbon?” post in the New Yorker blog, I dug up this carefully preserved, very old photo of PBR “兰带” bottled water.
Perhaps it is the ideal thirst quencher for those hipsters smoldering in the Beijing heat this week…
The following paper was for a class on contemporary art criticism in China. It discusses the two articles “Globalization” and “Observations on and Predictions for ‘After Postcolonialism’” by Gao Shiming. The conclusion includes some of my own analysis, but the content is generally the same as the previous two “Readings” on Gao. (Going along the Silk Route this summer, but if I get some time when I’m back, I’ll translate.)
英国的左派文化批评者特里·伊格尔顿（Terry Eagleton） 评论著名后殖民理论家佳亚特里·斯皮瓦克 （Gayatri Spivak）的新书《在俗丽的超市里》时，描述了后殖民话语的特征：“在某处，一定存在着给一本后殖民批评家准备的手册，里面的第一条是“以拒绝后殖民主义的整体概念为开始。”
作为大展背后的观念和理论的先行本，三年展的重要文章之一《读本一》，本人将对高士明与许江合编的文章《‘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》（2000）进行概述 。此文已在不同杂志发表过多次，并且在网络上广泛传播。 上述文章认为，后殖民主义并不适用于中国，中国的艺术家需要在多文化的平台上展示出自身的创造力。二人的争论围绕了2000年第十一届卡塞尔文献展艺术总监奥奎（Okwui Enwezor）和六位国际知名艺术批评家、策划人杭州的杭州之行进行了讨论。他们第一站是中国美术学院，第一天的讨论会上，他们就问道：“西方意味着什么？”
西方的“全球化”概念与艺术界对身份的认同和对独特性、本土性、差异性的重视不一定是本土艺术界所关心的话题，但是这些因素引起了西方艺术界对“身份”、“他者”以及多文化主义的讨论。 策展小组从来没有提出最相关的问题：后殖民的话语究竟是否适用于中国的文化语境？ Read the rest of this entry »
“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. Read the rest of this entry »
I’m celebrating this July 4th national day with the “Soldier’s Pocket Guide to China,” published by the US War Department in 1943. (No bbq’s for me, but as American as one can get at S.I.T., I’m enjoying an omelet slathered in ketchup and Tabasco with a cup of joe, black.)
This guide is deftly written, and delightfully full of insight and sympathy for the Chinese, “our gallant ally.” It comes replete with analects of Confucius––characters included––tips on shopping, girls, racial superiority complexes and more, and how much of it still rings true! (Aside from some predictable cartoonish characterizations of Chinese.)
For all of my American friends in China, remember, “Forget your old notions,” you’re on Chinese turf now, and “You are our Ambassador.” Happy Fourth of July!
“The Chinese are like Americans,” they laugh at the same jokes, and the “Chinese have their great men who were born in cabins” (Chiang Kai-shek).
And tips aplenty, on visiting traditional families: “the quieter you are, the better.”
How to eat in a restaurant: “If you want a good meal in a Chinese restaurant, take your buddies with you.”
Shopping: “If you pay what is asked, the shopkeeper will not respect you for it. If you argue him down too much, he will prefer not to sell it to you at all… But above all, keep good humored throughout. In China it is a sign of bad breeding to grow heated over a purchase.”
Learn about the “squeeze” [this isn’t the same “squeeze” as trying to exit the subway, but commission], and the use of “servants… who are smoothers of your way.” And discover that “Chinese have ways of getting information which has nothing to do with newspapers or organized sources of information.”
“Important things to remember: …By following these suggestions, you will not only avoid difficulties, but you will guarantee your own popularity.”
“…China is the oldest nation in the world and its civilization is in many ways the greatest. As a natural result, the Chinese will not bear any assumption of superiority on the part of a white man because he is white.”
“…Discourage anyone who acts as though the Chinese people are queer. They are not queer.”
“…Try not to lose your temper. You will see plenty of Chinese lose theirs, but they are looked upon as lower class when they do so.”
“…Bear in mind that many refined and well educated Chinese––professors, students, government employees––are today poor and underpaid. … Do not be too quick, therefore, in judging by appearances.”
Images of the introduction below. Read the rest of this entry »
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’?) Read the rest of this entry »
No, this is not a Chinese equivalent to Twilight. This is Komi, an “Uber-Internet Beauty” 网络超强美女. In case you weren’t aware, big, round eyes, with their giant irises and enormous pupils glinting with anime shine, white skin, pointy almond chin, and pursed rosebud lips are ke’ai, cute. They are cute that has crossed to the other side. Thus, the “Post 90s” generation strikes fear in me. And Komi’s photos caught my eye in the sidebar of some Chinese web portal, a bizarre consequence of the social/technology machine driving self-photography. What were the many stages of production that created this photo, what contributes to the collective failure in recognizing the disturbing nature of this image? Read the rest of this entry »
The North Korean pavilion at the Shanghai World’s Fair was inspiring, but last week I discovered the Mansudae Art Museum in 798 just across from Pace Beijing. The current signage in 798 can’t be missed, and although a stop in to this spacious museum might cause most visitors to smirk at its “kitschy” socialist realist oils and statues with chiseled, idealized proletariat features, there were some artistic treasures within after all. The museum itself seems to be privately funded by one of the DPRK’s most enterprising cultural firms, the Mansudae Art Studio, whose “overseas projects” division is responsible for other monumental statues across Africa, including the controversial Senegalese “African Renaissance.” Look for the Mansudae Museum underneath the book-bearing youth astride a winged horse and crowning an enormous faux-brick pedestal.
Deferring comment on the works themselves, and not knowing enough about the context in which they arrived in China’s most prominent arts district, I’d rather tell you about my joyous discovery of other art within––DPRK stamps! While “Korean jewel painting” and the realist ink and wash landscapes depicting craggy mountains might not appeal to Western tastes, I don’t know who could resist the wonderfully rendered ratus norvegicous found on the pleasingly designed “Rodents” sheet of stamps.
Amidst political themes fawning on the P.R.C. (a plethora of stamps depict Mao Zedong, Zhou Enlai, and more recent visits by the “dear Leader” to China), there was also a fascinating visual interpretation of the “History of the Earth” in which the planet swells like a bubble, and a equally reality-bending 1997 skyline view of Hong Kong, surely a commemoration of her return to Chinese rule. Mushrooms and alpine life sit high on the list of muses for DPRK philatelic society artists, and in the small books for sale inside the museum (13-31RMB), you can find their issue date in both the Western calendar, and in the Juche year (0 = 1912, the year of Kim Il-sung’s birth).
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” Read the rest of this entry »
Barbara Pollack’s book decoding the Chinese art scene “The Wild, Wild East” has caused some controversy with its recent release––I interviewed her for artforum.com.cn, and the following is her responses. A translated version can be found here, and see the Sinopop review of the book here. While she talks below about she located herself in the “scene,” I remain enamored with the Benson & Hedges.
“I think that if [this book] starts some people [in China] thinking about what kind of impression they’re making on the West, that’s great, and if it opens some minds in the West to what’s going on here, that’s great. I don’t think you can come away from this book without realizing that one part of this art world is to be able to operate globally. So I hope that the book helps push things in that direction. At least letting people on both sides know what the playing field is. But I didn’t write this to reform the Chinese system, I don’t know if it needs to change at all, it’s functioning for you here.
The one thing I didn’t want to come off as was a know-it-all-New Yorker. What I did was I cast myself as somebody who thought she knew it all, and then got to China and realized she was going to have to learn things that are done very differently. Being open-minded about those things, sometimes surprised, sometimes shocked, but my reactions are part of the story.
I didn’t want to trash the Chinese art scene, there’s a lot I like about it, and I’m very conscious that I’m writing this for Western readers, many of whom have a totally negative impression, so I’m trying to open their minds too.
First of all, I’ve had [Western] people say to me point blank: they can’t believe there’s any good contemporary art in China because of government control here. They have a negative view of China politically, so they feel the art here could not possibly be interesting, that’s where a lot of those people are coming from.
There’s the “Zhang Xiaogang factor”––there’s the people who saw it and collected it, and they are the biggest promoters of it. And then there are people who saw it and hated it, and decided that they don’t like any Chinese contemporary art because of it. And then there is the Yue Minjun factor…. Read the rest of this entry »
Round two of the Beijing art fairs opened on April 30th, and the buzz in the art scene confirms, ArtBeijing has surpassed CIGE, providing a better show all around. While the unofficial theme at CIGE was “fear,” ArtBeijing has embraced the spirit of Shanzhai!
These skulls by Fang Shengyi 房圣易 seem to be popping up everywhere lately, a pyramid of at least 50 similar skulls was spotted at the young artists portion of 《Reshaping History 改造历史》 that opened last weekend. Each skull is mounted with 3700 Czech-crystal “diamonds” and took ten workers more than 45 days to complete all these crystal-studded metal alloy skulls.
Here they are again, lower mandibles disjointed and floating in a pile of red and white sand. The title of this installation is “Original Sin” 《原罪》. The artist’s statement reads “a lateral reconsideration towards the frantic pace of economic growth in a socialist motherland… The utilizing, plagiarizing and plundering of intellectual property of advanced civilizations by developing countries equals a bald-faced exploitation of developed culture under the premise of identification…”
Let’s embrace brevity: It’s Shanzhai contemporary art!
This random installation could be a commentary on the art fair, perhaps we could interpret it as the “shanzhai fair within a fair.” Read the rest of this entry »
The 2010 China International Gallery Exposition closed this afternoon. Although the critics were not impressed, I’ve shared a few personal highlights shared below, my interpretation of “fear” being loose.
Classic “horror flick” fear. For only ten RMB, you too can buy the respect you deserve as a collector of “Chinese art” (represented in vast majority at CIGE). Mr. Sigg’s eyeball-less mug could masks will send shivers up any seasoned “Freddy” fan and is sure to fool even the most experienced gallerist. Read the rest of this entry »
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
The title alone of Barbara Pollack’s part exposé, part romp through the Chinese art world seems enough to identify the author’s New Yorker status. But she wears her outsider status like a badge, humbly poising herself to profile art world power players and make a broad outline of the yet infantile Chinese art infrastructure. As an American art critic covering contemporary art from China since the late 1990s, but who remains physically and metaphysically rooted in the Western hemisphere, her observations strive to be impartial and critical, as she wields her pen not on Chinese art objects per se, but the people and the institutions that beget them.
Her reporting skills, and relatively guanxi-free status among what can seem like a tiny, and steamy art world in China help her to collect and present enough information to capture the complexity and scratch the surface of this microcosm. She dives into personal impressions of Ai Weiwei with relish and bares her astonishment at dubious museum shows––all in-between Benson & Hedges and ladies’ nights out with one of her gatekeepers to the Chinese art world, the gallerist Meg Maggio.
The Wild, Wild East isn’t quite a Seven Days in the Art World for the Chinese contemporary art scene, but Pollock smartly plays her “foreign journalist” credentials to work her way to the highest echelons of Beijing and Shanghai’s art world power structure. While every “insider” will surely find points to dispute, they are equally sure to take away something new; newcomers or casual readers will find it a highly readable introduction, especially with regard to the art market.
Pollock well knows, the laowai status within China can be a double-edged sword, and many people have obviously worked on maintaining their “face,” never quite withholding information, but surely not “airing their dirty linens” before the foreign journalist. Although she doesn’t address this directly, Pollock’s self-awareness and sensitivity to her dilemma is reflected in divulging portrayals of her translator, Zhang Fang (also the wife of artist Wang Qingsong, whose intermittent commentary was valuable and entertaining).
Approaching this behemoth––the very complex, very foreign rising art world in the East––takes moxie, which this native New Yorker indubitably reflects in her first book. The Wild, Wild East wavers between dish and reportage, and is unquestionably the most ambitious attempt to date at a narrative account of the light-speed developments in Chinese world of contemporary art, in either English or Mandarin.
Review from artforum.com (in English here), and in Chinese Yin Xiuzhen’s works have been accorded femininity for the “soft” nature of her signature material: reclaimed fabrics from secondhand clothes. But the artist’s womanly virtues perhaps culminate in her “enterable” spaces, whose employ seems to have reached a crescendo in Collective Subconscious, 2007, currently on display at the Museum of Modern Art. For the piece, viewers are invited to step inside a patchwork caterpillar adjoining two ends of a nostalgic Chinese “breadbox car,” a minibus whose colorful interior, scattered with bar stools, invites communal experiences. In Beijing, Yin’s recent interest in modes of transportation seems bent toward exploring the human body and cultivating experiences on the individual level.Sleeves dangle and collars protrude from the surface of an enormous blue brain sculpture in Thought, 2009; the nuances of the discarded clothes make them seem like souls trying to escape a collective consciousness. Yet there is space within the work—somewhere near the hippocampus—for one viewer to stand and contemplate the structure’s elaborate frame. Echoing “Second Skin,” the exhibition’s title, Skin Cube, 2009, is a magnified cross section of human epidermis also constructed from clothing; it demands association with nearby fleshy sponges flecked with powder and boxed in transparent cases. The miniaturized slice of thoroughfare in Highway, 2009, utilizes apparel as its asphalt but features realistic light fixtures and guardrails. Here, Yin’s modes of transportation have been replaced with a desolate scene. The funereal element that lurks in her work becomes evident again, and the cast-off clothing, still her strongest material, implies that dozens of people have become the blacktop and white lines of the road itself.Inside of Thoughts, 《思想》内景more works below Read the rest of this entry »
Last sunday, Chart Contemporary invited Chen Ke to display “A Room of One’s Own,” a temporary installation that is the fourth in an on-going series of Open Houses, art interventions in some of Beijing’s unique spaces. Chen Ke’s room was a tiny closet of a room in a damp underground maze of dwellings near Lido Hotel. The space seemed perfect for Chen Ke, whose relentless and non-apologetic embrace of the dainty and quaint has come to personify the “cartoon” style of her age-group, but whose open embrace of feminism seems just as subverted as the room itself. Chen says that the idea was inspired by Virginia Woolf, but that the safe space atmosphere of cleanliness and respite was a reaction also to the city’s migrant population.The objects in the room were embroidered by “aunties,” who followed the artist’s instructions and sketches to the thread. Read the rest of this entry »
“Love in fact results from an excess of dopamine in the brain” by Madein from lee ambrozy on Vimeo.The above art work was produced by the artists’ collective Madein (also associated with artist Xu Zhen) and is currently on show at Beijing Caochangdi’s ShanghArt gallery.Their cartoonish rug canvases and plush sculptures notwithstanding, I fell in love with this behemoth made of discarded styrofoam, and held together entirely with bamboo skewers. Inside this half-Star Wars, half-garbage chamber is an automated spotlight which careens on its chassis and seems to be tweaked into permanent freak-out mode––it convulses 360 degrees, its colored lenses whirring in a hebephrenic frenzy.The title of the work is “Love in fact results from an excess of dopamine in the brain.”
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！）