Painting by Chris Gill
This list was contributed by Chris Gill, of Shanghaieye.net. Chris has been working as a painter in China since 1992. He also writes for The Art Newspaper. Currently you can see his work at Shanghart Beijing, in the group show “Stolen Treasures of Modern China,” until December 31. Today, Chris points out five English-language pieces or websites about the Chinese art scene that you should have read in 2009.
1.Lisa Movius pretty much captured the moment with her Shanghai Talk article “State of the Art,” rounding up the Shanghai art scene as the city headed into both ShContemporary and the eArts festival. Money quote:
Careers were sped up. They were ruined by success. Artists need to have time to experiment, to play around, rather than chase whatever is popular.
2. Pauline J. Yao’s essay, “A Game Played Without Rules Has No Losers,” first appeared in international artist network website e-Flux. While it’s quite long, it’s also a very informative and interesting take on the cultural underpinnings of Chinese modern art. Money quote:
The legacy of anti-institutional practices that we most readily associate with contemporary art in the West barely exists in the Chinese context; if anything, it represents a conundrum for artists who strive to maintain a critical stance while supporting the aim of mainstream acceptance. The process of reconciling these two goals—of gaining entry into hitherto closed institutions locally while at the same time maintaining an “outsider” or “anti-establishment” aesthetic or political position in the eyes of the global community—produces a tension that underlies artistic production in China, just as it does in many other developing art centers.
3. Artzine China‘s art “news” (read: gossip) page has always been a source of great amusement and information. Artzine China is a “contemporary China art portal” that does regular interviews, reviews and other articles about the art world here. Since the news changes every day, we suggest you check it out for yourself.
4. Another place that does a good job of covering the arts world in China “from the ground” is Red Box Studio. The blog features book reviews, critical conversations, event and exhibition listings, and relevant news on contemporary Chinese art. They aren’t afraid to say their minds — check out this quote from their review of the Shenzhen Hong Kong Biennale about Chen Zhen’s “Danser la Musique” piece. Money quote:
Although little blame can be placed with the artist, this debut realization of a participatory sculpture may end up doing more harm than good to the legacy of Chen Zhen. Consisting of a trampoline draped with a number of bells with bullets for clappers, the work is “completed” when children are allowed to jump on the structure. Dated multicultural conceptualism aside, the project ends up looking like a trashy amusement park attraction situated in a shopping mall parking lot between a 15 meter Christmas tree and a “Happy Vallery” neon billboard.
5. For a little local flavor, Phillip Tinari has always been a reliable source of funny art related vignettes, sometimes directly from the streets of Shanghai. His blog is full of insightful musings coupled with a humorous attitude. For instance, his most recent entry is titled “The unremarkable yet profound difference between Beijing and Shanghai.” Money quote:
And then, out of nowhere, the six intellectuals start talking about art. They’re drunk and rowdy and impassioned, and I don’t think they’d ordered anything. There’s a woman, and she’s insisting on her creative prerogative in the abstract. There’s a man, telling her she’s too Westernized. They’re batting ideas around, toggling between Shanghainese and Mandarin. Someone throws out the name Zhou Tiehai, calls him a fraud. The woman with the artistic aspirations, thinking we don’t understand or just not caring if we do, starts with the old rhetorical device of ask-the-people-at-the-next-table, who though we are two Chinese faces and a Western one, are enough to represent for her some sort of taste hierarchy that will confirm to the man that she is not exactly like us. The substance of the argument is of course not important here, but the modality, the timbre, the way they sit on some chairs and use others to rest elbows, the way their bodies consume the limited space of a narrow joint on a narrow street with strangers in proximity who can be invoked but never addressed.
And that’s when it occurred to me: Yang Fudong not as fantasia but as mimesis.