GENDER IN CHINESE CONTEMPORARY ART

 

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GENDER IN CHINESE CONTEMPORARY ART

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Ma Qiusha, From No.4 Pingyuanli to No.4 Tianqiaobeili, 2007, single channel video, 7’53”, image courtesy of the artist

 

On the 22nd February I’ll be speaking at a symposium organised by Tate Modern on gender in contemporary art, looking specifically at how artists are exploring gender through digital and mediated spaces. The programme for the symposium is listed below. It offers a fantastic opportunity to hear artists including Ma Qiusha, Nabuqi and Ye Funa talk about their practice. Tickets for the event are now available via the Tate Website. 

TATE MODERN

22nd February. 14:00-18:30

This international symposium will explore the role that gender has played in the development of Chinese contemporary art.

Co-organised by Tate Research Centre: Asia and Central Academy of Fine Arts China, the symposium is split into two sessions. The first will give a critical overview of the subject, including a paper by Monica Merlin that will provide a history of contemporary art by women in China, a paper by Ros Holmes that will take up the new condition of artistic creation and distribution through digital and mediated spaces, and a panel discussion moderated by Wenny Teo. The second session will focus on individual practices, with artist presentations from Nabuqi, Ma Qiusha and Ye Funa followed by a discussion moderated by Song Xiaoxia.

By engaging the history of women’s artistic production in China, this symposium seeks to recuperate an often-elided narrative, while also asking what it means to be a woman artist working in China today, and whether gender still matters in contemporary practice.

Gender in Chinese Contemporary Art is part of the multi-venue collaborative exhibition NOW: A Dialogue on Female Chinese Contemporary Artists, which examines the positions adopted by women artists within the ecology of contemporary China. Through a series of exhibitions, commissions and events, NOW explores diverse artistic practices which transcend notions of gender difference to offer multi-faceted perspectives on contemporary social realities.

Programme

14.00 Welcome by Tate and Central Academy of Fine Arts China

Session 1: Critical Framework

14.20 Introduction by Sook-Kyung Lee, Tate Research Centre: Asia

14.30 Rethinking Women Artists and Gender in Contemporary Chinese Art
Monica Merlin, Birmingham City University

15.00 No More Nice Girls: Celebrating the Ugly and the Artless in China’s Online Spaces
Ros Holmes, Christ Church, Oxford University

15.30 Discussion and Q&A moderated by Wenny Teo, The Courtauld Institute of Art

16.00 Break

Session 2: Voices of NOW

16.30 Introduction by Wang Chunchen, Central Academy of Fine Arts China

16.45 Nabuqi

17.00 Ma Qiusha

17.15 Ye Funa

17.30 Discussion and Q&A moderated by Song Xiaoxia, Central Academy of Fine Arts China

18.30 – 19.30 Reception

Gender in Chinese Contemporary Art is co-organised by Tate Research Centre: Asia and China Central Academy of Fine Arts. Supported by the China National Arts Fund and British Council, Beijing.

Tate Research Centre: Asia has been generously supported by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

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Celebrating ‘The Chinternet’: Internet Art Practices in China

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This Wednesday I’m delivering a lecture on Internet Art practices in China, examining artists’ distinctly self-conscious celebration of what has often disparagingly been labelled ‘The Chinternet’.  The talk will interrogate the assumption that internet art emerging from China can only belatedly repeat works of Euro-American precedent, arguing that current practices present a dramatic reframing of online censorship, consumerism and the unique aspects of vernacular culture that have emerged within China’s online realm.

While the talk is advertised as being open to all members of Christ Church, interested parties from the public and the wider University community are welcome to attend.

Pauline Yao Lecture: In the Mood for a Museum: Art and Collecting at M+, Hong Kong

This Thursday I have invited Pauline J. Yao to Oxford, where she has generously agreed to deliver a lecture on art and collecting at M+ to students and staff at The Ruskin School of Art (although the lecture is open to all). Pauline is currently in the UK as a Leverhulme Visiting Professor at the University of Leeds and during her time here she will be delivering a number of important lectures and public talks, including this event at Tate Modern on the 26th April. I’m therefore delighted that she will be joining us in Oxford for what promises to be an exciting opportunity to learn more about Hong Kong’s largest museum of 20th and 21st century art and design, architecture and moving image. Details of the lecture are below, all welcome.

 

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 In the Mood for a Museum: Art and Collecting at M+, Hong Kong

Old Masters’ Studio, Ruskin School of Art

Thursday, 27th April, 2pm

Pauline J. Yao is Leverhulme Visiting Professor at the University of Leeds and Lead Curator, Visual Art at M+, the new museum for twentieth and twenty-first century visual culture being built in Hong Kong. She has held curatorial positions at the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco and worked as an independent curator and writer in Beijing for six years, during which time she helped co-found the storefront art space Arrow Factory. A co-curator of the 2009 Shenzhen Hong Kong Bi-City Biennale of Architecture and Urbanism, Yao is a regular contributor to Artforum, e-flux Journal, and Yishu Journal of Contemporary Chinese Art and her writings on contemporary Asian art have appeared in numerous catalogues, online publications and edited volumes. She is the author of In Production Mode: Contemporary Art in China (Timezone 8 Books, 2008) and co-editor of 3 Years: Arrow Factory (Sternberg Press, 2011).

The Uses of the Future: Contemporary Art in the Digital Domain

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Earlier this year I was asked to contribute an essay for a publication commemorating 30 years of the Centre for Chinese Contemporary Art (CFCCA). The Centre was formed in 1986 as the Chinese View Arts Association, a festival platform of art, music and dance whose purpose was to create an improved understanding of Chinese culture for UK audiences. Now in its third decade, the centre has become a well respected contemporary art gallery that regularly hosts exhibitions of emerging and established artists from Greater China, the UK and beyond, in addition to a lively and innovative programme of residencies, engagement projects, festivals and events.  As the only non-profit organisation in Europe to specialise in Chinese contemporary art and visual culture, the publication marks the important contribution the Centre has made to the evolution of Chinese contemporary art practice over the last 30 years.

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The publication has been divided into five subsections, which tackle issues ranging from ‘Contextual Changes in China and Beyond’, ‘How Have Exhibitions of Chinese Contemporary Art Evolved?’, ‘Definitions of Chineseness’, ‘Talent Development’ and ‘The Future’ with each section including a series of essays and conversations that explore the work of the organization and its surrounding contexts. My essay features in the final section on ‘The Future’ and addresses how artists in China and beyond are responding to the changes wrought by the so-called ‘digital turn’, looking specifically at the impact of social media, the creative appropriation of pixelation and programming code and the role of internet art, online exhibitions and digital archives in the shaping of new spaces for art and its display in the twenty-first century. I have included a pdf of the essay, entitled ‘The Uses of the Future: Contemporary Art in the Digital Domain‘ in the publications section of this blog, which you can find here.

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‘Chairman Mao goes to Anyuan’ (after Liu Chunhua, 1967), Giclee on Canvas/ 95 x 77cm, by Gordon Cheung (2016), featured in the essay by En Liang Khong on ‘The In-Betweeners: Identity, Politics, Hybridity and the Art of ‘Chineseness’

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‘A Contemporary Art Centre, Taipei, a proposal’ by Jun Yang (2008) featured in the essay by Biljana Ciric on ‘Exhibiting Rituals- Potential and Traps: Exhibitions on China in China and Outside China’

With contributions from artists, writers and curators in the field including artists such as Xu Bing, Liu Ding and Gordon Cheung, and curators Hou Hanru, Biljana Ciric, Marko Daniel and many others, the publication has much to offer students, scholars and specialists of East Asian Art as well as those with a more general interest in contemporary art and visual culture. For anyone looking to purchase a copy, the book will be available to buy from Amazon from December onwards.

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A detail from Xu Bing’s bellyband design for ‘Book from the Ground’

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Stills from Susan Pui San Lok, including ‘Notes on Return’ (2003), ‘After Words’ (2005), and ‘Vistas'(2005), single channel digital videos and digital video triptych. 

The Art of the QR Code

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This post is devoted to exploring a digital phenomenon that seems to have largely eluded audiences in Europe and America despite its pervasive presence within the art world in China: the QR (Quick Response) code 二维码.

QR codes are a ubiquitous feature of daily life in China. Plastered on newspaper adverts, restaurant flyers, giant billboards, subway posters, supermarket counters, buses and even business cards, the omnipresence of this seemingly mundane digital marker speaks volumes about the dominance of mobile networks, social media and communication technologies in contemporary China.

Mobility

The functionality of QR codes within China has been significantly bolstered as a result of the majority of the country’s inhabitants accessing the internet via their mobile phones rather than through personal computers. According to recent statistics, 89% of China’s 700 million internet users go online using a mobile. Mobile online networks have therefore dovetailed with the convenience of QR codes, enabling a range of activities which might seem unthinkable to users outside of China. As this recently released video demonstrates, the simple scanning of a code can be used to make online payments, join social networks, access consumer discounts, attain online information, send digital money to friends and family, as well as countless other activities and services. In short, QR codes in China go far beyond the capabilities of their QR cousins in Europe or elsewhere, where they predominantly function as a means of digital ticketing including online boarding passes etc. Continue reading

A Beautiful Disorder: CASS Sculpture Foundation’s major exhibition of art from contemporary China, Hong Kong and Taiwan

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Cui Jie 崔洁, ‘Pigeon’s House’《鸽子的房子》(2016), Stainless Steel 不锈钢, 4.5 x 2.6 x 2.45m

 

This weekend I travelled to the South Coast (near Chichester) for the opening of CASS Sculpture Foundation’s latest exhibition 无序之美 A Beautiful Disorder. The exhibition features the work of eighteen artists from Mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan including: Bi Rongrong 毕蓉蓉, Cao Dan  曹丹, Cao Fei  曹斐, Cheng Ran 程然, Cui Jie 崔洁, Jennifer Wen Ma   马文, Li Jinghu 李景湖, Lu Pingyuan 陆平原, Rania Ho   何颖宜, Song Ta 宋拓, Tu Wei-Cheng 涂维政, Wang Sishun王思顺, Wang Wei王卫, Wang Yuyang 王郁洋 Xu Zhen (Produced by MadeIn Company) 徐震(没顶公司出品), Zhang Ruyi 张如怡, Zhao Yao 赵要 and Zheng Bo 郑波 and is the largest (and arguably first) showcase of outdoor contemporary sculpture by these artists to be held in the UK.

The exhibition takes its name from a letter penned by the French missionary and Qing court painter Jean-Denis Attiret in 1743. Writing to a friend in Paris, Attiret described details of the garden and architecture of the ‘Garden of Perfection and Light’ 圆明园 in the Old Summer Palace in Beijing. Praising the garden for its unpredictability, diversity and adherence to naturalism, Attiret wrote: “[the Chinese] rather chose a beautiful disorder, and a wandering as far as possible from all the rules of art. They go entirely on this principle, that what they are to represent there, is a natural and wild view of the country; a rural retirement, and not a palace formed according to all the rules of art.”

Attiret’s ideas were to have a profound impact on English landscape aesthetics, particularly the naturalistic, free-flowing forms that have characterised English garden culture from the 18th century onwards. Ushering in what was then considered a stylistic revolution,  famous figures such as the architect Sir William Chambers, designer of Somerset House (home of the Courtauld Institute of Art) and the famous Chinese Pagoda at Kew Gardens were similarly keen to adopt the Chinese garden’s ability to provoke ‘violent or opposing sensations’ through a series of theatrical framing devices that allowed the viewer to look out onto a wider panorama.  Taking the historical relationship between Chinese and English landscape aesthetics as a point of departure, the exhibition curators Wenny Teo, Ella Liao and Claire Shea therefore conceived of the exhibition as a series of unexpected scenes and sensory experiences situated throughout the grounds of the foundation. As viewers navigate their way around the woodland typography of tree-lined pathways, sheltered groves and pastoral vistas, gradually encountering the works on display, they are invited to reflect on ‘China’s past, present and future relationship with the world at large.’ Continue reading

Summer Events and Exhibitions

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For anyone that’s keen to know what contemporary art events are taking place in the coming months here’s a link to an extremely useful blog post written by Rachel Marsden. Rachel is a curator and PhD researcher specialising in Chinese contemporary art and culture and she has provided a great rundown of exhibition openings, talks and events occurring throughout the UK in June and July.

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Cheng Ran, Crossroads, Maquette, 2016.

One imminent event I’ll be attending is CASS Sculpture Foundation‘s opening of ‘A Beautiful Disorder‘ this Saturday (2nd July), the first major exhibition of newly commissioned outdoor sculpture by contemporary artists from Greater China to be shown in the UK, it promises to be a fantastic exhibition and I’ll be providing a full rundown of the artists and works on display early next week.

 

 

Dislocations: Remapping Art Histories

Staircase-III 2010 by Do Ho Suh born 1962

Staircase-III 2010 Do Ho Suh born 1962 Purchased with funds provided by the Asia Pacific Acquisitions Committee 2011 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/T13344

On the 3rd and 4th December last year I attended Tate Modern’s conference on Dislocations: Remapping Art Histories, organised by the Tate Research Centre, Asia-Pacific. The two day event featured a fantastic array of artists, curators and academics addressing questions on performance, socially engaged practice and the methodological rethinking of the Western-centrism of 20th century art histories. As Tate Modern notes: “Topics included environmental art and performance in Japan in the 1960s, performance and its relationship to installation art in the Philippines in the 1970s, transnational and multivalent character of Modernism’s centres such as Paris and Mumbai, the effect of the internet and social networking technologies in contemporary Chinese art and the ‘social’ legacy of the socialist era in contemporary practice in China.”

The video recordings from the conference are now available to view online, so for anyone that was unable to attend the event I thought I would include a link here to the final session, on ‘Contemporary Art and the Social’ as it addresses themes which are extremely pertinent to online visual culture.

The other two sessions can also be watched by following the links below. Lee Ambrozy’s talk on ‘An Expanded Definition of Performance Art in China’ in session 1 is a fascinating talk which is definitely worth watching. The full conference programme is available to download here.