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Archive for March, 2009

Howls!

                The Morris and the Helen Belkin Art Gallery is hosting a photography exhibition of   a group of arising contemporary artists in china, ” Action—Camera: Beijing Performance Photography, ” from Janoury 16 to April 19, 2009.  The majority of the photographs were initially created to document the performance practice.  But surprisingly, the photographs now seem able  to survive themselve  form  substitutes for an extended time-base narrative.

                 This exhibition is curated by Keith Wallace and it is intended to “explores an aspect of performance art that is prominent in mainland China and in particular, Beijing,and to examine the trajectory form of the discreet underground performance art community of Beijing in the 90s to a currently international recognition.

           That is the official exhibition statement of the Gallery.  As a spectator with particular Chinese  culture background,  I have a very different interpretation and experience of  this exhibition. What these powerful works speak to me are not so much about performance art in a western sense, not so much about the celebrating fact of these Chinese artists are gaining more international recognition. Even though, they wear the same title ” , Chinese performance art in fact bears little resemblance with the one in a western art sense. Contemporary or conceptual art is rarely risen to  a celebrating and valuable  status in Chinese society as in Canada. Art and performance art, in Chinese real life, has been misinterpreted, over-looked and overshadowed by other dominate social values.    

                I entered the gallery space for my first visit to an exhibition of Chinese artists in Canada. I was confronting these compelling photographs, i heard howls!! A realm of visual howls!  Howl for human condition, howl for self-identity frustration, howl for social change, howl for a culture that is losing itself… The technological issue that many of the photographs are staged, scenario, and may be modified with photo shop manipulation becomes very insignificance. What matters, or what  becomes more important is that the photographs now metamorphose themselves to independent, powerful art works. And most of these art works are not limiting themselves within the categories of  aesthetic and sentimental. Instead they embodied with loads of social, political, cultural, and spiritual significance. Some works are addressing sensitive social  problem that has been long neglected by the  commercialized country. Some of works speak for the marginalized grounps’ condition, such as the gay people, people with mental illness, the lower labor workers in the big cities, the “freaks” whose behaviors go against the main stream… 

         Surprisingly, the re-enact, staged, or scenario nature of these photographs not only sustains an authentic and honest representation of the reality, also  it successfully captivates the audience’s attention with its dramatic,symbiotic,  and aesthetic effects.  The number of the works in this exhibition is not very great, yet the exhibition provokes multiple and universal thoughts to the scioety and we as a human being. 

             I  am glad that the works can escape form the rigid political atmosphere in china, and are able to make their voice  in Vancouver.This is specially significance for me, because i probably will not able to see such an exhibition if i am in china.  on the other hand,  Vancouver is such multicultural city with a great number of chinese immigrants.  Chinese is part of their identity . These works speak to me, cause i have background knowledge of them, and also i care about what happen there, my other home.

           I am not sure if the exhibition can make much sense for those who have little relevant knowledge about the context. but hopefully, it can somewhat provide reference or any inspiration to the people live  here. The world is not flat, and everything is related.

          Finally, the post is not so much critical review about the exhibition, but more  a personal journey. Even though i didn’t interact with the works the way the curator expects, i am glad to see such an exhibition got realized here. From the exhibition, i hope the artist community in china grow stronger and produce more and more powerful works for a better country. i wish i can be part of it.

          

There is one work by He Chengyao: 99 Needles (2002) was conceived in response to her mother’s struggle with mental illness, a disability that has been neglected and prejudiced. in the memory of the artist, it is her mother’s miserable,desperate resorting for cure… (This the “needle cure” she once had. after she had herself photographed after the procedure, she  fainted)   99-needles-2002-by-he-chengyao1

Dropping A Han Dynasty (1995) by Ai Weiwei, an ironic encountering with chinese obession with its glorified history, and its fear of the destruction and any radical change of social values.dropping-a-han-dynasty-urn-1995

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