An Opera for Animals was first staged at Para Site in Hong Kong between 23 March and 2 June 2019, with works by over 48 artists and collectives that use opera as a metaphor for modes of contemporary, cross-disciplinary art-making. The exhibition's second iteration takes up a large portion of the Rockbund Art Museum (RAM) in Shanghai (22 June–25...
Zoe Butt is the artistic director of The Factory Contemporary Arts Centre in Ho Chi Minh City, the first purpose-built space for contemporary art in Vietnam. Founded in March 2016, the Centre was designed by HTAP Architects in an old steel warehouse, with cargo shipping containers added to its structure. Initiated as a social enterprise...
即将于2019年7月13开幕的第二届 Condo Shanghai，联合上海7座画廊/艺术机构与14 家来自全球11个不同的城市，如东京、首尔、雅加达、巴尔的摩、洛杉矶、伦敦、纽约、危地马拉城、利马和墨西哥城，为实验性展览营造了一个更切实可行的国际环境。以下是Ocula的展览看点。周奥，《景观/对象WA》（2016）。橡木上固化油墨打印，左: 55.88 × 147.32 cm，中: 121.92 × 152.4 cm，右: 55.88 × 147.32 cm，图片提供：马凌画廊，上海。马凌画廊 × 80m2 Livia Benavides × LABOR × Proyectos Ultravioleta马凌画廊 |...
Zhang Peili’s recording of an anchorwoman on state-run television reading nonsense text, at his request, about water. Credit Vincent Tullo for The New York Times.
Strange to say, although China has 1.4 billion people, it has only one artist, Ai Weiwei. Or so you'd think if you followed the Western news media. Art and China after 1989: Theater of the World at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum wants to correct that impression. With work by some 70 Chinese-born artists and collectives filling most of the museum, it's the largest American survey of its kind since Asia Society's Inside Out: New Chinese Art in 1998.
Ai Weiwei is China's most recognised contemporary artist. In the past 25 years, Ai has come to acclaim for his large-scale installations, political activism and frenetic online presence. Ai is the son of renowned poet Ai Qing, a one-time member of the Chinese Communist Party who was accused of 'rightist' opposition to the government the year of his son's birth. The family was subsequently exiled to a labour camp in rural northern China where they lived for 16 years. After Mao Zedong's death and the ensuing end of the Cultural Revolution in 1976, the family returned to Beijing where the young Ai enrolled in the Beijing Film Academy. It was here that he co-founded Stars Group, one of China's earliest avant-garde art collectives.
In 1981, Ai moved to the United States where he studied at the University of Pennsylvania; the University of California, Berkeley; and Parsons School of Design in New York. However, he ultimately dropped out and made a living by working odd jobs. During this time he took a prolific amount of photographs in the city's East Village and learned about conceptual art, performance and poetry from friends like Allen Ginsberg—lessons that would inform his developing practice. In 1993, due to his father's illness, Ai returned to China and found it a changed nation—the pro-democracy Tiananmen Square protests had taken place just four years earlier and surges of materialism, corruption and environmental problems had accompanied the country's rapid economic development. Inspired by his time in New York's East Village, Ai contributed to the creation of the Beijing East Village, an avant-garde artistic community comprising some of the first Chinese performance artists. Ai made his own first significant performance work two years later, when he dropped a 2000-year-old Han Dynasty urn (Dropping a Han Dynasty Urn, ). Met with outrage, Ai drew connections between the act and Mao Zedong's stance that China must both build a new world and destroy the old one, a sentiment used to justify the sacking of cultural objects and historical signifiers during the Cultural Revolution. Such wariness of establishment and government came to characterise Ai's career, and is surmised in his ongoing series of photographs that depict him giving the middle finger to structures of power such as Tiananmen Square, Hong Kong's skyline, the Eiffel Tower and the White House (Study of Perspective [1995–2003]).
Ai is an artist, architect, photographer, filmmaker, antique furniture dealer, scholar and designer, but what he has become most known for is his criticism of the Chinese government—an authority that employs strict censorship and is known for punishing dissenters. Ai and the Communist Party first clashed when in 2005, the largest internet platform in China invited the artist to begin blogging. As relayed in a 2006 interview with Hans Ulrich Obrist, the artist was 'totally seduced'. He posted a constant stream of social commentary, political criticisms, personal writings and photographs; at one point over 100,000 people were reading per day. Due to its perceived sensitive content, the blog was shut down by authorities four years later. Ai took to Twitter and Instagram (both banned in China) where his hundreds of thousands of followers are still inundated with images of his life and work. He is widely credited for bringing to light human rights issues in China for an international audience.
In 2008, along with Herzog & de Meuron, Ai came to even greater global acclaim when he acted as artistic consultant for the Beijing National Stadium, constructed for that year's Olympics. Yet controversy struck again when in the same year, an earthquake hit Sichuan province and thousands of children died while studying in shoddily constructed schools. Ai launched a 'Citizens' Investigation', rallying the public to collect the names of the victims in order to memorialise them and shed light on the substandard building conditions that had heightened the death toll. The government did not approve, and Ai was beaten by police shortly before he was scheduled to testify for one of his collaborators on the project and suffered a cerebral haemorrhage. One of Ai's most famous photographs shows him in the elevator with the policemen after the attack (Ai Weiwei in the Elevator When Taken into Custody by the Police ). Still, Ai's work about the earthquake travelled to Munich, where it was included in the exhibition So Sorry at the Haus der Kunst from October 2009 to January 2010. Displayed on the museum's façade, the installation Remembering (2009) was constructed from 9000 children's backpacks and spelled out the phrase 'For seven years she lived happily on this earth', a quote from one of the young victim's mothers. This multiplicity of material and large scale is characteristic of Ai, who is known for repeating and modifying simple materials, as seen in the millions of porcelain seeds for his 2010 Tate Modern project Sunflower Seeds, and his accumulation of 886 wooden stools in Bang at the 2013 Venice Biennale.
2011 was a monumental year for Ai; the artist was arrested at the Beijing airport by authorities who had branded him as a 'deviant and plagiarist'. His studios were searched, computers confiscated and Ai and his staff and family were questioned. After almost three months of harsh imprisonment, Ai was released after receiving charges of tax evasion. Yet his passport was confiscated for four years as the artist was 'suspected of other crimes'. He is still under close watch by authorities; indeed, the cameras installed by the police in front of his studio to monitor his activities inspired his marble sculpture Surveillance Camera (2010). In recent years, Ai's attention has been focused on the migrant emergencies in the Middle East. The artist has travelled extensively to refugee camps and the shores where migrants enter Europe to conduct research and document the humanitarian crisis. Law of the Journey (2017–18) featured a 230-foot-long inflatable raft carrying 258 faceless refugee figures, while thousands of lifejackets collected from asylum seekers in Lesbos made up the installation Soleil Levant (2017) in Copenhagen. The installation saw the façade of a major building adorned with the bright orange safety vests. Other recent projects have focused on surveillance, drones and political prisoners.
Ai Weiwei currently lives in Berlin, where he is the Einstein Visiting Professor at the Berlin University of the Arts.
Lin Tianmiao (林天苗) became one of the first Chinese women to establish herself as an internationally respected contemporary artist.
Her initial art training came from her father, from whom she learned calligraphy and traditional painting techniques. Then, having gained a BFA from Capital Normal University in Beijing in 1984, she and her husband—the artist Wang Gongxin—migrated to New York City in 1988 where they remained until 1994. Tianmiao has subsequently stressed the key significance of her time in New York in shaping her artistic attitudes. While there, Tianmiao designed textiles and in 1989 she attended The Art Students League. On her return to Beijing, she converted her home into an open studio that became one of the key venues for so-called Apartment Art. It was at this time that Tianmiao began making work involving winding thread around everyday objects. She has related this technique to childhood memories of helping her mother make clothes for her family, and the use of thread in various ways became a core characteristic of her mature work.
Her work has expanded into sculpture, photography, video and large-scale installation. She has repeatedly used images of the naked female body and, in a series of 'Body Language' sculptures, replicas of human bones.
Among Tianmiao's core concerns are the disappearance of tradition and the dehumanising pressures of contemporary society. Despite the materials and subject matter of her work, Tianmiao has rejected the suggestion that she is a feminist artist. When talking to Ocula Magazine in 2017, she explained that 'the term "feminism" is borrowed from the West.' She added that 'using a woman's perspective is something I've worked through now.'
The exhibition Bound Unbound at Asia Society Museum in New York (7 September 2012–27 January 2013) was crucial in establishing Lin Tianmiao's international reputation, and her work is now in the permanent collections of museums across Asia, Australia and the United States. She lives and works in Beijing.
In the 1980s, Huang Yong Ping was lauded as the resident provocateur of the Chinese art scene. Today, though based in Paris, he remains one of China's most well-recognised avantgarde artists. Characterised by his skepticism and persistent defiance of hegemony, Huang's monumental sculptures and installations investigate themes such as tradition, imperial history, ideology, religion, cultural conflict and ecology.
Huang was born in 1954—an era of political upheaval in China—in the southern coastal city of Xiamen, and studied at the Zheijiang Academy of Fine Arts (now the China Academy of Art) in Hangzhou. Graduating in 1982, Huang was amongst the first students to attend the school after the Cultural Revolution. However, Huang was uncomfortable with the traditional, canonical and painting-focused teachings of the academy, and looked elsewhere for artistic insight. He was particularly roused by three distinct schools of thought: Zen Buddhism, the writings of Ludwig Wittgenstein and the avantgarde philosophies of artists such as Joseph Beuys, John Cage and Marcel Duchamp. The lattermost influence led to a distinct Dadaist turn in his early work; alongside Zha Lixiong, Liu Yiling, Jiao Yaoming and Lin Chun, Huang was co-founder of the postmodernist, avantgarde group Xiamen Dada (1983-9). With firm anti-institutional sentiments, the group is remembered for publicly burning their artworks. Asserting that the process of creating is more important than the finished product, the artists explained their actions with a manifesto that read: 'To an artist, works of art are just like opium ... without the annihilation of art works our lives will never be at peace.'
Another important example of Cage and Duchamp's influence on Huang is his early 'Roulette-Series' (1985-1988) which emphasised chance over subjectivity. One work from the series, titled Small Six Turntables (1988), is an assemblage of discs in a leather bag. The discs are inscribed with artistic qualities such as colour, composition and brushstrokes; when spun, their random alignment is meant to determine the outcome of a painting. The work's focus on fate is reminiscent of Huang's Spray Gun Painting from 1981, for which he painted with an industrial spray gun rather than a brush to relinquish control and embrace passive action. A decade later, Huang directly referenced Duchamp in his contribution to the 1997 Skultur.Projekte in Münster. Titled 100 Arms of Guan-yin and loosely based on a Buddhist figure associated with compassion, the large-scale sculpture is an enlarged metal version of Duchamp's 1914 readymade Bottle Rack, with mannequin arms holding various objects.
Beyond his indebtedness to art history, Huang also possesses a certain antipathy towards systems of knowledge. This attitude can be seen throughout many of his works, including one of his best-known: The History of Chinese Painting and the History of Modern Western Art Washed in the Washing Machine for Two Minutes (1987). As an attempt to erase the boundaries between tradition and modernity and East and West, Huang washed both books together and presented the damp contents as a pile of wet pulp on a wooden box. Similarly, for the performance A Book Washing Project, Huang washed all the books off his shelf in Xiamen and presented the resultant mush on the wall.
The distinction between East and West would become even more personal for Huang, when in 1989, at the age of 35, he travelled to Paris as one of three Chinese artists to participate in Magicians de la terre at the Centre Georges Pompidou. However, Huang's trip to Paris coincided with the Tiananmen Square massacre in Beijing, and fearing the unsettled atmosphere, he decided not to return to China. Instead, he immigrated to France, where he has lived ever since. Indeed, in 1999, Huang represented France at the Venice Biennale with a collection of cast-aluminium animals on top of the pavilion's roof.
Often portrayed in violent situations, animals have played a large role in Huang's work. His Arche 2009 (2009) comprises a 50-foot paper boat full of burnt taxidermied animals—a not-so-subtle and rather macabre reference to Noah's ark and detrimental human impact on the environment; while the morbid Leviathanation (2011) consists of a giant fibreglass fish head, stuffed animals and a to-scale train. Critiquing British colonialism and made up of life-size replicas of an elephant and tiger, The Nightmare of King George V (2002) references a hunting expedition Britain's King George took to Nepal in 1911. The crouched position of the tiger on the elephant's back is said to mimic the pose King George assumed while shooting tigers on his trip—the feline replacing the King in Huang's work as if in the monarch's role-reversed dream. Also referencing hunting, his 2015 L'Arc de saint-Gilles features a deer split in half by an archer's bow. And as part of an ongoing series of serpent-themed works, in 2000, Huang installed a site-specific sculpture in Hand Münden, Germany. Titled Python, the work is a 40-metre snake skeleton which wove through a rural bridge. Similarly, Serpent d'ocean (2012) is an 130-metre, aluminium snake skeleton which was installed, half-submerged, off the shore of the Loire River outside of Nantes, France.
Huang is no stranger to controversy: he was met with backlash for his Bat Project (2001-5), which included a replica of the US spy plane which in 2001 collided with a Chinese aircraft and was forced to make an emergency landing on Hainan Island. Feeling the incident too sensitive, French, American and Chinese officials had the work removed from two separate exhibitions. In 2017, in response to calls from activists, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum removed Huang's Theater of the World (1993) from the exhibition Art and China After 1989: Theatre of the World, a wooden terrarium-like installation which includes hundreds of live insects and reptiles. In response to the incident, in conversation with Ocula in 2018, Huang stated: 'I am...against the idea of provocation for its own sake. This has to do with the teleological aspect of a work, I advocate for an art form that is aimless.'
In 2005, Huang held his first retrospective at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, USA, titled House of Oracles. The show later travelled to Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (2006), the Vancouver Art Gallery (2007) and Ullens Centre for Contemporary Art in Beijing (2008). Huang has also held solo shows at the Grand Palais, Paris (2016); Red Brick Art Museum, Beijing (2015); MAXXI, Rome (2014); Museum of Contemporary Art, Lyon (2013); and Ecole Nationale Superieure des Beaux-Arts, Paris (2009).
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