Chinternet Ugly: Exhibition Opens 8th February at CFCCA (Centre for Chinese Contemporary Art) Manchester

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I’m proud to announce that Chinternet Ugly, a new group exhibition which navigates the messy vitality of China’s online realm, will shortly be opening at the Centre for Chinese Contemporary Art (CFCCA) in Manchester. The exhibition features work by Miao Ying, Ye Funa, Lu Yang, Lin Ke, Liu Xin and aaajiao and was co-curated by myself and Marianna Tsionki (Research curator at CFCCA). The exhibition will run from 8th February to 12th May – for anyone interested in learning more about how contemporary art in China intersects with the internet please do pay CFCCA a visit!

 

About this exhibition

‘Chinternet Ugly’ navigates the messy vitality of China’s online realm, a space where artists can engage, play and debate.

This exhibition features works by six leading new media artists and includes new work by Miao Ying, co-commissioned by CFCCA and University of Salford Art Collection. 

China is home to 802 million Internet users, 431 million micro-bloggers, 788 million Internet mobile phone users, and four of the top ten Internet companies in the world. This vast user base combined with a handful of ubiquitous online platforms and e-commerce giants including WeChat, Tencent and Alibaba results in cultural currents that flow at a blinding pace – spreading and evolving far more rapidly than on the ‘global’ web and creating a distinct internet culture – the ‘Chinternet’. Utilising this space as a site for cultural and political negotiation, critique and play, the artists presented in ‘Chinternet Ugly’ probe how
 the sheer volume of Internet users in China ensure that the country 
is effectively becoming its own online centre of gravity, one with the power to create its own sphere of influence over network norms.

Focusing on a younger generation of artists – the first to have grown up with mass digital technology – ‘Chinternet Ugly’ invites the viewer to explore the complex and contradictory nature of China’s hyper-regulated digital sphere from the perspective of some of its most dynamic and engaging artists. From Xu Wenkai (aaajiao) and Lin Ke’s manipulations of found digital materials and standard software programs; to the augmented reality of Lu Yang; the celebratory pop aesthetics of Ye Funa to the dark side of internet freedom in the works of Liu Xin, and the veneration of the ugly and artless evident in the works of Miao Ying.

To mark this exhibition CFCCA are delighted to announce a co-commission in partnership with the University of Salford Art Collection of a new work by Miao Ying: Love’s Labour’s Lost. This video installation explores Miao’s own relationship with China’s hyperregulated online realm, which she views as a ‘Stockholm Syndrome’, a traumatic bonding. In this work Miao uses love locks left by lovers on the bridges of Paris as metaphor for the complex and conflicted relationship between China’s internet users and Chinese internet technology, security and access.

As an artist from the first generation to grow up with China’s open policy and the internet, Miao explores in a humorous way the visual language of the Chinese internet and its users. As with the other five artists featured in ‘Chinternet Ugly’ she works online, often using GIFs, screenshots and lo-fi visual elements alongside physical installations.

Paying tribute to the messy humanity found between the cracks in a digital world of smooth transitions, polished selfies, blemish correcting software and autocorrect, ‘Chinternet Ugly’ celebrates lo-fi aesthetics and highlights the Chinternet’s potential to subvert cultural stereotypes, reject societal norms and generate a vibrant vernacular of satirical memes and online subcultures.

‘Chinternet Ugly’ has been co-curated in partnership with Dr Ros Holmes, Presidential Academic Fellow in Art History at the University of Manchester, who specialises in modern and contemporary Chinese art and online visual culture.

Miao Ying’s ‘Happily Contained’ at Art Night London

 

For this year’s ‘Art Night London’ Miao Ying created a new VR piece called Happily Contained, an interactive installation that appropriates ubiquitous online imagery to probe the mediated nature of our contemporary digital existences. Deconstructing the iconography of the ‘American Dream’ in all its technicolour, patriotic and kitsch glory, the piece offered a thought provoking meditation on the making and selling of national ideologies and their online afterlives in the data streams of global mass media. Displayed in the show room of a new housing development, visitors were directed to the marketing suite of the Embassy Gardens, where they were invited to don VR headsets in the plush surrounds of a fantasy home. Apparently the location was deliberately selected not just for its close proximity to the American Embassy, but also as it mirrors “how tech companies push branded lifestyles with targeted advertising, by tracking and monetising their users’ data.” In many ways it reminded me of the pop up exhibitions staged in many of the showrooms of Beijing’s luxury housing developments- and the often disquieting disconnect between the aspirational lifestyles being marketed to urban consumers and the human, environmental and social impact of these developments.

‘Meanwhile in China…Miao Ying and the Rise of Chinternet Ugly’ now available in the latest issue of ARTMargins

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My article on Miao Ying, Internet Art and ‘Chinternet Aesthetics’ entitled ‘Meanwhile in China…Miao Ying and the Rise of Chinternet Ugly‘  is now available in the latest issue of ARTMargins (Vol. 7, no.1). I’ve included the abstract below but to download the full article follow this link. The article is also accompanied by a special online supplement which can be found at ARTMargins online. The aim of the supplement is to enable viewers to see these works as the artist intended, as well as providing links to many of the websites introduced in my article.

 

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Miao Ying, Net Art and the cultural hybridity of the ‘Chinternet’

Landscape, 2013, GIF installation, reclining chairs, touchpad devices, welcome mat, sheets, crumpled paper

Landscape, 2013, GIF installation, reclining chairs, touchpad devices, welcome mat, sheets, crumpled paper

In this post I’m going to be taking a closer look at the recent works of Miao Ying 苗颖, a young artist whose practice explores the intersections between digital imagery, net art and the co-existent yet often culturally distinct web cultures that have developed within China and beyond the so-called ‘Great Firewall’. In Miao’s work memes, viral images, videos and audio recordings often coalesce in unforeseen and imaginative ways in a process that comments upon both the limitations and the vibrancy of what has affectionately been labelled the ‘Chinternet. ’ 

Born in 1985, Miao graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the New Media Art Department 新媒体艺术系 of the China Academy of Art (CAA) 中国美术学院 in  2007 and an MFA in Electronic Integrated Arts from Alfred University’s School of Art and Design in 2009. She was among the first generation of new media students at CAA to be tutored by the artists Zhang Peili 张培力 and Geng Jianyi 耿建翌, who are widely regarded as pioneers in the field. Indeed CAA’s ‘Intermedia Art Institute’ 跨媒体艺术学院 features a number of prominent artists, curators and critics amongst its permanent teaching staff, from Yang Fudong 杨福东 to Qiu Zhijie 邱志杰, Gao Shiming 高世名 and Wu Meichun 吴美纯. The New Media Art Department encompasses a wide range of disciplines spanning computer programming to animation, photography and video, an interdisciplinarity that is reflected in Miao’s eclectic approach to her practice. Continue reading