Symptoms: Becoming Peninsula I (Cheng Ran, Li Wei, Lu Yang, Ren Hang, Yan Heng, Yan Xing, Yuan Yuan, Zang Kunkun)
Iberia Center for Contemporary Art, E06, 798 Art District, Beijing
3 March – 3 April, 2012
In the first of what the organisers promise will be a long-term project with regular presentations (although “…to be held once or twice a year in different ways…” is perhaps a little vague), Iberia Center for Contemporary Art in 798 has brought together a patchy, but (perhaps for that reason) representative selection of young Chinese artists to show the state of art production in China at this time.
This show is ostensibly based on the truism that the works and the artists’ sensibilities are ‘symptoms’ of the society they have grown up in. The wall text for the show makes the case that after the ‘idealism’ of the ‘90s, business culture took over and young people had to fit into tiny gaps in the “highly specialised division of labour and elaborate social structure[s]”. By doing so they could then only develop inwardly, using their new-found access to media and technology. I’m not sure I completely understood the argument, but the upshot is that ‘diversity’ became the key to their lives and productions.
Linda Gallery, 797 Street B Zone, 798 Art District, 2 Jiuxianqiao Lu, 100015 Beijing
4 June – 3 July, 2011
“Alibi,” the title in English of this group show at Linda Gallery in Beijing’s 798 Art District, seems so much more evocative than the Chinese title《不在场》which the essay by curator Wang Yifei translates as “Being Absent.” Although the adherence to the title seems a little weak at times, this show presents artists working with an absence of some sort. That being a very broad subject, the results take many forms and directions, and overall the show brings together an interesting selection of works, with some standout pieces.
Staying initially with the curator’s text, there are some points there that I think bear notice. Unsurprisingly, given where we are, the text does not delve too far into any of the contemporary social realities of “being absent.” Describing it in general terms as “like a conspiracy, an escape or a way of self-liberation.” To me this places the focus more on an individual’s agency in the matter and less on absence as a result of outside circumstances.