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.
Print•Concept: The Second Academic Exhibition of Chinese Contemporary Prints
Today Art Museum, Building 4, Pingod Community, No.32 Baiziwan Road, Chaoyang District, 100022 Beijing
7–19 August, 2011
The sound of cracking coming from people’s mouths and underfoot was perhaps the first indication that there was something different about this opening. Today Art Museum’s galleries were filled with the great and good of the Chinese art world for the opening of The Second Academic Exhibition of Chinese Contemporary Prints, subtitled: Print•Concept. But throughout, while chatting and viewing the artworks on the walls, many were distractedly clutching small handfuls of sunflower seeds, cracking them open with their front teeth with more or less proficiency, and spitting out or letting the husks fall to the floor in their wake.
While big names in the visual arts such as Xu Bing and Fang Lijun took up the wall space, artist Yan Jun arranged a parallel experience as his own contribution to the show with his piece How To Eat Sunflower Seeds. Yan Jun is famous in the sound art community as a veteran performer and for being pivotal in the development of the Chinese experimental sound and music scene. For the last decade or so he has run the SubJam label, releasing material from a role call of experimental musicians and sound artists from China and beyond.
Rather than at its appearance as part of this show at CU Space, the first encounter I had with Fan Ling’s work was as part of the Focus on Talents Finalists Exhibition at the Today Art Museum in Beijing, where the works FAT and FLAT were transposed to the new venue. Thus the art museum provided the original context for my understanding of his work and that provides a launching off point for my appreciation of it.
With an artist as well known as Zhang Xiaogang, it’s perhaps difficult to move audience perceptions on from the clichés of “Chinese art” which his work has, for better or worse, become an image for. This problem is equally true for the artist themselves in their quest to develop their work. Zhang’s solo show at the Today Art Museum in Beijing demonstrates a development of his signature stylistic forms into a space which may energise those forms.