Testament that well-financed expatriate Chinese artist whose conceptual work of the 1980s stands as a monument in the development of contemporary Chinese art can still make some-thing of relevance (“things” remade from construction sites in Beijing)
Phoenixes Rise in China and Float in New York
Xu Bing Installs His Sculptures at St. John the Divine
By CAROL VOGELFEB. 14, 2014
Lo Ch’ing (Luo Qing)’s work was part of exhibition on display for just one week! in New York. The conclusion was December 16, this post is behind schedule. Fortunately, and a bit more long term, we have Mr. Goedhuis’s comments via this video.
I’m particularly struck by two things. First, the rather hard distinction between the oil painters of the “past 20 years” who’s deliberate exploitation of political themes is not, at long last, cause for celebration, and the observation that these ink painters (Lo Ch’ing among them) are, in Goedhuis’s words, “the quintessential [Chinese] expressers of our time”. Word!
Below in not so perfect reproduction a few of Lo’s quintessential images in question:
Ai Weiwei is back in the public eye, now more ponderous than ever. Namely, he’s provided sculptural view of his 80+ day detention in 2011, and they are on display at Venice Biennale under the title SACRED.
Which brings me to an imaginative exercise, brought about only slightly facetiously by voluminous and similarly placed facial hair. What of our own instances of unlawful detention? Would a mock-ups, beard and all, of Abdullah al-Kidd being interrogated by CIA officials do well as art in Venice? (al-Kidd was detained for 16 days in 2003 for attempting to fly to Saudi Arabia.) If the art was well done, I suppose, it might be picked up by some adventurous curator for global art events like the one now in Italy. But, would NPR, the New York Times, and the Guardian cover them as they have Ai Weiwei’s exhibit? Obviously not. Part of the reason for that is of course that al-Kidd is not himself an artist, and therefore not eligible for artist as hero against ‘The Man’ narratives that we so readily go in for. The other reason is that al-Kidd was presumed to be a terrorist, and that just does not seem a topic worthy of reporting. Which of these two reasons is more important here I can’t say. Maybe they come out about equal.
Which brings me to Time Magazine. Last week featured a cover by Ai himself, and a report on contemporary China by Hannah Beech.
Ishaan Tharoor comments:
The consequences of China reclaiming its “rightful place” are far-reaching—a world driven by a Chinese consumer class, rather than an American one, would be already a very different place. But Beech charts the “uncomfortable realities” of China’s emergence as a superpower: its toxic environment, its awkward relations with wary neighbors, the iron-bound determination of Xi’s Communist Party to keep a stranglehold on power despite the growing frustrations of its restive population. China views itself as the Middle Kingdom, imbued with the mandate of 5,000 years of glorious history. But the rest of the world still sees a “foreign policy laggard,” preoccupied more by its insecurities than its strengths.
Ai’s image thereby accompanies a narrative of China’s rise coupled with the important exercise of putting China in its place. This concerted effort requires not only all the major media to partake, but just as importantly, a legitimate, dependable, valiant, brave, native, figure like Ai Weiwei to drive it all home. It must issue from numerous places at once (Time, London, Venice, etc), and fully interweave text and image, politics and culture, without ever disrupting the dominant view: China is rising, BUT…
Another year another China art documentary, focusing on questions of identity, or, as Wang Guangyi asks in Finnish film director Mika Mattila’s Chimera: “what are our roots?”
The question itself continues to inspire new documentary work, but not, perhaps, much discussion or even interest (at least not for me). I remain intrigued, however, by filmmakers who are able to take this topic as the subject of their art, in other words, film artists who make art the fodder for their art. The arrangement is curious in that so much of what is compelling about such work is derived, if not flat out stolen, from someone else’s creative work. Where would, in other words, Mattila really be without Wang Guangyi and Liu Gang, who in most media reports (LA Times, for instance) are the headliners anyway, with the ‘real’ artist–the filmmaker–relegated to round about paragraph three. Journalists can see proportionality in this case of creative production, anyway.
The question is somewhat personal, I suppose, as I’ve endeavored off and on to tackle Zhong Biao in documentary format. Whether or not the project ever comes to fruition, I am certain that the better part of what emerges as watchable (耐看) will stem from his painting, or other products from his fundamentally creative hand. The structure, rhetoric, even cinematographic dimensions of my work would all rightly be upstaged by the artist or artists in question.
Robert Adanto’s work, discussed elsewhere on this blog, is also a case in point, but in watching that work we are forced to admit a certain spectrum of truth to the proposition that the documentarian of art is a thief of sorts, particularly when compared with Alison Klayman’s work on Ai Weiwei, a more modest, and therefore artistically thin operation. Yet in either case there is something there, in the art of the art, something beyond mere convenience (documentarian travels to locales we cannot in order to bring back the goods of what’s good), something expressive and individual, self-deprecating by design, but occasionally aesthetically there in the mind’s eye of the viewer.
And so it will be with Chimeras, I expect. I’m looking forward to seeing it when it comes to town.
Last week I had the pleasure of kicking off the art article discussion series at newly opened Ryan James Gallery in Bellevue. I’ve met Ryan and the crew a number of times now, and am really impressed with their level of energy and inventiveness. Though this particular event was perhaps more run of the mill in conception, the Gallery operators envision a truly wide array of activities to be centered their in the space. I hope to be involved however I can.
The discussion nominally concerned ZZ Wei’s work, about which I’ve written in AsiaPacific Arts. Big surprise of the evening being that ZZ and his wife Hsuan-chun were able to make an appearance as well. The conversation veered widely, though, and is quite well summarized by Ryan himself on their Facebook page.
So for those in the area or not too distant distance, do drop in. You’re sure to find something going on.
The news from Sichuan. The Chengdu (come “Chengdoo” –go figure) website reports that it will create the largest stand-alone structure known to man. The amenities include two, five star hotels, a beach, a coastal town and a hot springs.
The project has already released an English-language promotional video:
Happily, 1/3 of the entire project will be dedicated to a Contemporary Art Center, designed by Zaha Hadid Architects. Certainly looking impressive:
The modern art gallery will cover 30,000 square meters and be the largest such structure in China. That’s a fraction of MOMA’s 185,000, and about 1/2 the size of the Louvre, but plenty large in the context of such a massive project. Such a project will certainly put Chengdu on the map (not that its not already) in terms of contemporary art. That said, curatorial decisions will be key in terms of how much cultural ROI such investment brings.