马永峰的博客

Aug 25
http://www.forgetart.org/

forget art
Interview with Ma Yongfeng

forget art is a series of projects distinguished by their intangibility, influenced by Minimal and Conceptual practices. Although the group is fluid, Ma Yongfeng is perhaps the most visible organizer and I sat down with him recently to discuss what it meant to “forget art” and how their forthcoming show in a public bathroom in Caochangdi would manifest itself given their concern to leave no trace.



Edward Sanderson: Can you start by explaining what forget art is and what your role in it is?

MYF: Actually, I think I’ll begin with the term “alternative”, I think this term has a long history. Some people use “independent”, some use “alternative”, but whatever they use it is because they think the museum space and gallery space cannot satisfy a demand for interesting projects. So I started with this idea for the project, because I think it is time to choose another way.

I got my original inspiration from the Arte Povera movement in Italy, Fluxus in Germany, and the American Minimal Art movement, all of which happened around the 1970s, as well as some artists from the Gutai Group in Japan. These are some very interesting works, some very interesting artists, they were very influential with me.

ES: And Mono-ha?

MYF: Yes, Mono-ha, but before Mono-Ha there is the Gutai Group after the 50’s. They were doing what they called “mobile art”.

Looking at recent events, I’ve I found a very interesting thing. Since the mid-90s contemporary art in the West has been booming in America and Europe, and I think this is connected with the rise of the Biennales. So since the 90s there has been a tendency for people to make these big works and big installations, and film and video projections. So everything becomes luxurious, and huge, and spectacular – people want to make wonderful and fantastic visual effects.

But I think my starting points and influences are very interesting in this context, because Arte Povera comes out of the restrictions after World War Two. My approach also gets inspiration from Jerzy Grotowski’s “Poor Theatre” – it’s like people thought: “Oh, [art] has too many symbols, there’s too much decoration in theatre and art, so we need to delete something. We need to be poor, to use simple materials like stone, trees or iron, the basics, materials from everyday life to make interesting statements.

For me it’s a cycle, like in the fashion industry, every twenty or thirty years fashions come and go, and if everything gets bigger and bigger, then at some point everything will collapse. As Lao Zi said, “So it is that some things are increased by being diminished, and others are diminished by being increased.”

Maybe the Millennium served for people to rethink their approach. I found many young artists in Beijing, Berlin and New York starting to make smaller works. These small works are not very high profile but part of their life and their soul, and not just to make objects but to make small, simple things, from your heart.

So last year we introduced and shared ideas about Arte Povera, Fluxus and Conceptual Art, Minimal Art from the 70s, with some friends. I think they are still provocative, still very strong ideas.

ES: Do you think it has a particularly strong effect in China?

MYF: Yes, they understand it totally. Because the young artists can accept anything and have no memory of revolution, they have no memory of the Cultural Revolution. Even I am not interested in any kind of work about revolution. I just care about my life because I was born after the 70s.

ES: You think you’re typical?

MYF: Yes. But I think it’s not just about bringing the ideas over or copying them, it’s the mixture. You see these kind of works, you get inspiration from them, and you have your life experience and art practice – because you come from China maybe you have some additional input from local philosophy, for instance Mono-ha was a mixture of Minimal Art and Zen philosophy. So we have this kind of tradition, from Laozi and Zhuangzi, the most important thing is not just to read their books but to mix their ideas with some interesting forms, that’s what artists should do. That’s the artists’ work.

ES: Talking generally, not just about forget art, but about Beijing and alternative practices. Is there a lot going on at the moment? Do you think Beijing is particularly active right now?

MYF: I think Beijing and Shanghai are still the most important places for the contemporary art scene in China. You know, in China we have a long history of philosophy. It’s a kind of utilitarian methodology, very realistic. Confucianism told you to have respect for your parents, and to study very hard to get an official post (or maybe you can use bribery or something!). It’s very realistic, I would say. I think that 90% of people are very realistic in this way and over the 2000 years since the Spring and Autumn periods, we also have had a lot of philosophers, this has been a real cultural blooming for China, much like in the West with the Roman period, Plato, etc.

But after the 2000 years up to the Qing Dynasty, since then there has been a totalitarian way of thinking. So people here now have a kind of ideology that they all use the same kind of things to think about the world. We call it a “herd mentality”, we think like we are in the herd, we think we are all in one boat, we share the same ideas, and we can’t have independence and personal experience. You have to belong to the collective; you have got this collective memory, much like during the Cultural Revolution. But now people have more and more freedom, and the young people—especially the young artists who were born in the 1980’s—are more free in their thinking, and have more personal experience in their works. I think it’s a good start.

And also another point, from 2006 until now there has been a lot of “blind speculation” amongst the art people here. They think: “Oh, it’s a good time for art and we have to push things to the peak, so we can get more money”. There are no real non-profit groups or organisations here, not really. In Beijing, there was Universal Studios [now Boers-Li Gallery], and Platform China, Long March Space. 5 years ago they would call themselves non-profit organisations – they were doing some alternative projects as a result. But after two or three years they became more and more commercial. And that’s the situation, that’s the phenomenon, a very common phenomenon [in China], because there are no systems of foundations or rich people creating contemporary art funds to support this kind of art scene. So most of the galleries, the non-profit organisations, can’t afford to carry on, and have to sell some works. Say they want to do video or new media shows, but they have to support themselves by selling artworks.

And there are also some other things going on, like curators and writers setting up alternative spaces in China. Like the Arrow Factory – they use a street shop as a small space to do shows. I think it is very connected with local community – they need their context, and this is their concept. But I think it’s not really what the young artists want. I think we need things that are even more free. We don’t want any limits, sometimes we don’t even need a space. If you have got a space you have some limitations, and we don’t want that. You do get some interesting projects [in gallery spaces] but it’s still a very traditional way of working. I think that in the art world, people have to think about this, how to get rid of this burden. We think that normal life is art, but we try not to use that phrase, it’s a very old phrase – like the statement “trying to blur the boundary between art and life”. It’s such an old-fashioned sentiment. We just want life submerged into life, concept submerged into the concept. Things in things.

ES: So they have a closer connection, or no division at all, you just try to bring them all together?

MYF: Yes. To give you an example, I think spitting here in China is very normal, so I spat in the street, but I have to wait for it to dry out – that’s a kind of responsibility I have taken. I have to wait for thirty-five minutes or so for when it becomes dry and then I leave. So I think people will ask “What’s the line between art and work?” We don’t call it “artwork”, we call it life itself. But we have to include that wait! Someone asked, why don’t you just piss in the street? [laughs] And wait for that to dry! But that’s too big for me! Because with forget art we try to do something like life itself – like normal things. People see what you are doing and they think, “oh, nothing happening!” Maybe the spitting is over in one second, but you have to spend 35 minutes waiting: one second and 35 minutes. You have to devote yourself, be responsible for this. Then people don’t say it’s a strange thing – because you are an artist it is expected that you do strange, weird, bizarre things, different from life – but we just want to be normal. We don’t transcend the forms of life, we use them as material, that’s all.

I know there are currently some artists in groups, like Company and some other new groups. They are totally different from the groups in the 80s like the New Measurement Group. The New Measurement Group is more like a group , they are doing something together. But now some artists initiate groups and they are very loosely connected. I mean sometimes they are doing something together, but sometimes they are doing very different work.

ES: So there’s not a very distinct group or style?

MYF: Yes, there’s no “brand” like that. They can do group projects, but when one artist is doing a project individually they are working very differently, they have their own experience. So I think they are more open than the earlier groups. Sometimes they are doing projects but sometimes they are doing their works. That’s quite interesting.

ES: What age group are they? Are they 90s generation? Are they very young?

MYF: 80s, most of them are born in the 80s. Like forget art, we are not really a “group”, this is our “orbit”. Maybe some artists enter into our orbit, to a point where we will do something together. Although it’s not a group or an organisation, sometimes I’m in charge of organisation – I’m the service man to do things! Because you have to have some people to manage, you can’t forget anything! That’s the issue, if you remember – do something about forget art! [laughs] And if you forget it, ok forget it! So that’s quite interesting.

Because we’re not curators, or writers, or some art-world related people making an organisation. We are not doing something like Open House who rented a place and brought in video or set up an installation. I think this is still too much. Of course artists have different ideas but if I used that space then maybe there will be several artists doing something invisible and then we leave. So we want another option, not like a show or an alternative exhibition. I think in a gallery or a museum space you can do a show, that’s ok, everybody likes that. You add it to your CV, that’s good. But if we use another space, it’ll be in a “disastrous” way. But the disaster is not a criticism, we are very low profile, it’s another way of disaster, not a very visible disaster – not like an earthquake, but something from your heart. Say if you’ve separated from your girlfriend, maybe you will be heartbroken. Maybe you can’t see it, but it’s heartbroken. We don’t need a volcanic eruption, we need these heartbroken things, on the inside [laughs]. That’s the different way in which we think about the term “alternative”.

ES: Do you see yourself as an organiser? A curator? How do you see yourself within forget art?

MYF: I’m basically an artist; I don’t see myself as a curator. Sometimes artists have a great concept about what they want to do, and the curator or the critic follows on from that. Or sometimes the curator is ahead of the artist. But most of the time they are about the theory and not about practice. But it is possible for artists to make works that combine the two.

ES: How has forget art developed? Is it the same group of artists that you were talking to last year when you first mentioned the idea to me?

MYF: We are very open. I’m not going to use the word “organisation” because it’s not an organisation, so I call it an independent “orbit”. We have our independent activities. We are all different. Some people want to make artworks, some are maybe saying they don’t want to make artworks. I think we’re doing something different, but because the word “different” is so overused it’s difficult to use it.

ES: Much like the word “alternative”?

MYF: Well we do use that word, but actually we’re not an alternative organisation because there are no real group members. Every time, we cooperate with different artists, we have no space to show in, we are doing things in any kind of space or location. I mean, sometimes we do things in the street – street intervention work, sometimes we are working in special spaces, like the public bathrooms we are using for the next show, maybe after that we do something in a museum space? If people ask, “how can you use a museum space?” we don’t say something like “oh, we’ll try to redefine the attributes of the original space” – we will actually try to keep these. For example, MOMA is a museum space. They show Andy Warhol there – for instance famous works like the Brillo Boxes. Maybe we’d doing something to “reverse” the Brillo Box, about the Brillo Box form but paint it white, so it looks like a very Minimal box. I’ll bring that box and put it in the MOMA space (but of course security will stop me). So we’re trying to use this action as a conversation, a dialogue, with Andy Warhol. But we’re not trying to resist Pop Art or consumerism, we’re not interested in anything about demonstration or resistance. We’re just like a filter, or transformer. We accept anything – Pop Art goes through our filter, and becomes Minimalism!

ES: You talk about “Urban Nomadic Tactics” on the forget art website, an idea of movement in your activity, which seems to be similar to a “guerrilla” attitude as you alluded to when you talked about the Brillo Boxes.

MYF: Yes, we’re not so much about setting up in one place. In society, there is a long history of nomadism and there are a lot of people living this kind of nomadic life in China, moving from one city to another. So people have this form of life. That’s also why we don’t need any space – because we “forget art”, why do we need any space to do this? You don’t need that, you can “forget art” in any kind of location!

We are free. We are in a situation, or a time after time, and a space after space. We have time to do this. We don’t need space to show works, we don’t rely on the traditional institutional space – we should get rid of this kind of thing.

And these are not “events”. We use terms like “situation”. An “object” is just this thing [indicates a cup], but if we draw a circle around it, it’s an expanded object, developed, and it becomes a situation. But we don’t want it to become bigger and bigger, we’re just in the middle, in-between. We want this kind of in-between situation – like the act of talking with people.

ES: Right, there’s a piece where you are talking to someone, and then coming back again a year later to the same place.

MYF: Yes. Because that’s about my experience, but it’s also everybody’s experience.

People have this kind of experience, but they forget it, so last year I made a piece about this kind of situation. It’s not a performance – it’s not meant to be very intentional, or pretentious, it’s just a talk in the street with a stranger. Because I know nothing about him I talk about something I’ve broken – where can I repair it? The conversation is about three minutes long, and I recorded it (although he doesn’t know that). After one year, I call and ask him: “Do you remember we had a conversation on this day last year?” He can’t remember, of course. I say, “OK, come here again and I will get you dinner.” So he is interested in the dinner and will come. I give him the words on a piece of paper and tell him we have to remember the event, we have to do something like a rehearsal (an idea from Poor Theatre), and then we do it very seriously! We speak it again at the same time, the same moment, in the same location.

I think it is interesting because nobody cares about it, they think, “oh, it’s just two people talking in the street, it’s a very normal thing”, but I think the most important thing is that time has changed something.

ES: On the website you talk about “sometimes you switch between art and non-art”? How do you see that working?

MYF: You know, we don’t want to stay in art, it’s a bit boring to do that. Those artists that want to make “good” works and attend the big Biennales, or some show in UCCA – that’s quite wearying! The people who set up the exhibitions like that are people who make big things, these big nothings. Now there are the Yes Men and Wild Boys doing some crazy things, and the young artists in China like them very much.

ES: Do you think Chinese artists, Asian artists, are particularly interested in these sorts of things now?

MYF: Yes, some artists like the Shuang Fei group from Hangzhou, they are doing something like this.

But forget art is not trying to do that. We want an aesthetic of the low profile, or the aesthetic of the “ignore us”. With forget art we are still in the context of art, but we need that contradiction, that confrontation – confrontation with the art world and the artworks. For example, once I brought a battery charger into a museum space. I found the walls there all hung with big paintings and I thought maybe I can do something with this situation? So I brought my video camera charger and put it amongst the art – and people didn’t notice it. After one week, people come back and the charger is still there – they don’t care about that, maybe they think it’s some staff working in that area. I think it’s kind of an ignorance—or it’s nothing—but I do think it’s connected to that space, although you can’t see it, there’s some energy in there, some transmission inside. Maybe it will consume several volts of electricity, but people won’t notice that.

I don’t think I had seen Ceal Floyer’s work before I made this work, but when I saw her till receipt, I thought it was so subtle and minimal and has this reference to Robert Ryman – I thought it was beautiful, very beautiful. But people who see the receipt at first can’t understand it fully, but it develops.

ES: I know you also like Martin Creed. For instance his lights turned on and off, those kind of pieces that he does – really, really subtle, to the point of disappearing.

MYF: Yes, I like him very much. But you know, although it’s a Western artist’s work, from England, I think it’s referring to Eastern thought and philosophy, especially the Jingangjing (The Diamond Sutra) – a very famous Buddhist text. In this text the Buddha (the Buddhist sutra) talks about the Void and Emptiness, how you can feel the Void and Emptiness in everyday life. If you see this Void you won’t see anything, but just the name of this thing that you see. When you first read this book you may be confused – if you see it, actually you will not see it, it’s just the name that you see. There are a lot of conversations like that in the text. So – well it makes me very confused! This way to see the world, I think is an alternative way. Three thousand years ago there is this wisdom about the world, but people still don’t understand it today. So that’s an idea behind forget art, that all the artists will make something to deal with this kind of concept.

In 2008 I was staying in Vermont on a residency with several other artists. The organisers wanted us to do some work for an open studio. Because the place where we stayed was very high in the mountains, there was a lot of snow. So I didn’t want to do any works I just want to play! But they say “Tomorrow we are going to have an open studio. What kind of thing are you doing?” I haven’t got any idea! But that pushed me to think about what I do. I want to play with snow, so why don’t I make some snow toilet paper? So I use a can and push some snow inside and make it very solid. After one night, the snow shrinks slightly and can drop out of the can and then I cut a hole through it. So it’s like a toilet paper roll, almost the same size. I put it on the table and when people come to see me, they ask “Well, where are your things?” “That’s it!” I say to them, “you can use it!” and they laugh! So I think that was clever and humorous – people liked it and that’s good, some kids liked it and that’s also good. I think with good works kids and old people like it.

ES: And then this piece melts away eventually?

MYF: Yes, after four hours it melts, and becomes nothing, it becomes emptiness. So it’s a contrast between the inside and the outside. The snow and the form, and after several hours it will disappear.

My point is I have to do something with nothing. I don’t want people to buy my things, because many things you can’t buy in life. Like love! I mean love needs time – to know a girl and have that feeling, maybe over one year, maybe two years. And you can’t buy that. Actually Capitalism tries to make everything become a commodity, that’s not acceptable to me, it’s unfair to the work. That’s also an idea behind forget art.

ES: How do you see forget art developing? Will you carry on doing situations? Will you do more shows, like the one coming up? Or is it a thing which is very open?

MYF: Yes, it’s very open. We cooperate with different artists. Every time maybe we put a lot of energy into the intangible works, like the situations. The situation is intangible, like those of the artist Tino Sehgal, it’s just a situation. We can’t call it a performance, because a performance is a traditional work. ”Live work” is ok, but situation is better. It’s like a film still from a film, from cinema, of people talking or people doing something, or falling in love, or people doing an exhibition – this is all material for us.

Because we try to “forget” art we use every detail of this institution – like curatorial practice, the art fair, art gallery, arts management. We can use everything as material to do something related to art, or unrelated to art. As an example, one of my friends is trying to see some show, a big show in a museum – he calls this the work. Every afternoon he goes there to see a big painting for two hours, and he says, “I’m doing the work to see the work”. That’s ok, I think it’s no problem. He did another work where he pays for three months of traditional Chinese music lessons, on the erhu. And then he performs in the gallery space for the visitors. That’s involving several layers of social experience. Yes, I think with these situation-based works, and you have to use a lot of time to do them.

ES: You now have a situation, a show coming up. Why have you now chosen to somehow formalise forget art, to have a proper show?

MYF: I think if you want to do something new, it’s difficult, probably people have done that. But I think if we just make a new start it’s ok. A new start means we choose a place, in this case it’s a public bathroom in the village, not very clean or tidy, just a specific environment that’s perhaps not very popular, and we just use it for one day. We don’t try and change anything about this environment. We have six or seven different spaces, female rooms, male rooms. I told all the artists: don’t try to change anything about the space, just the details or some part of it, and do some small interventions. When the audience come into this place maybe they can’t see any works, we just want the public bathroom to still be the bathroom, we don’t want to change a lot. We think if you want to do that, use a gallery space, use a museum, you can do fantastic things! You can use projections, you can do big installations. But here, we don’t want to change anything. We just use very small ideas to change something inside and people may not notice at all! That’s our motivation.

ES: So the changes may look completely normal? But there’s still changes taking place?

MYF: Right now, I can’t say that 100% of the things are like that, but I think if we have 70% or 80% it will be ok, because everything is not so progressed yet. You also have to compromise with the artists. With some artists you have to have a long talk with them, to help them get the theme.

ES: So, who are these artists?

MYF: Most of them are young artists, born after the 80’s, very young, very active and very dynamic – they have many good ideas. They want to try the new things and new forms, new ideas. Sometimes they really surprise you. So I like to cooperate with them.

ES: And when is the show?

MYF: September 9.


Ma Yongfeng was interviewed by Edward Sanderson (CPU:PRO) at the The Cave Café, 798 Art District, Beijing, on 29 July 2010. Interview edited by Edward Sanderson.
Apr 15
Passages: China at the Crossroads

A Talk & Video Screening—Curated by Maya Kóvskaya
                            
http://www.openeyeddreams.com/chinaFilm/index.htm

A passage is sometimes a corridor or thoroughfare that leads from one place to another; at other times, it is a rite or a Rubicon or a moment where one state is exchanged for another. Most of all, it is a journey, a process of being underway and on the road. As the passage of major historical change is being undergone and carried out in everyday life, economics, society, politics and culture in China, Chinese contemporary art has reached a nexus of crossroads. In the early and mid-1990s, easily digestible, foreigner-pleasing formulas from China, such as Political Pop and Cynical Realism, captured the international art community's imagination. By the late 90s, however, growing numbers of Chinese artists, many born in the 70s, were unwilling to bow to foreign fetishes in order to follow the previous generation's path to easy success.

Images of a country attempting to carry out unprecedented and rapid economic "modernization" by political fiat have overtaken the old creative canons, bringing a more diverse generation of new Chinese contemporary art to the international stage. The video art and performance art documenta in Passages: China at the Crossroadsshow various ways in which China is undergoing dramatic changes in almost every facet of life during this era of localized globalization, and so-called "modernization." This new generation of contemporary art in China rejects neat labels and gimcrack gimmicks in favor of the messy, quotidian world.

In Cui Xiuwen’s “Drifting Lantern,” we see a classic symbol of traditional Chinese culture undergoing a tenuous journey through the darkness. The glowing vermillion lantern bobs and sways in the dark, following a pattern that is hard to predict. At times it feels as if the movements of the lantern are both random and governed by an invisible, unknowable force—much like the experiences of ordinary people in the face of these massive changes transforming today’s China, who often feel that they are being taken on a path they cannot see, and know not where it leads. There are moments, however, with the human hands behind these driving forces are revealed and we realize that these huge, global processes that push and pull us are wholly human creations. In the video as well, we catch glimpses of the human bearer of this light—a hand holding the bright orb aloft, a leg tentatively stepping onward in the darkness.

“Missing/Gone Astray,” is a landmark work by Dai Guangyu, a leading figure of the Southwestern public action art and environmental art movements, who is known for his daring political critiques, brilliant performance interventions and inventive use of ink wash. This performance took place on June 4th, 1999, exactly 10 years after the tragic and sanguinary denouement of the student movement in Tiananmen Square. Dai Guangyu and a friend don masks and attire that make them appear de-individualized and uniform. They take to the streets of Chengdu. Their journey through the city is accompanied by ongoing references to Tiananmen and the power arrangement that keeps the anniversary unutterable in public discourse. Motifs of complicity and absence permeate the work. The masked men pass through the city reading the newspapers, which have no news about the anniversary, of course, and engage in bizarre repertoire of familiar everyday postures, which appear absurd because they are taken out of context. Clapping to show approval, raising hands to vote assent, and cringing as if to ward off blows, are all normal behaviors one frequently encounters in life. But the settings for these, such as speeches by leaders, party meetings, and confrontations with violence, are conspicuously removed from the scenarios enacted here, and thus are highlighted by their very absence. And by considering these behaviors outside their normal context, we are forced to recognize the performative function they fulfill—to underscore, support, perpetuate and reinforce existing power arrangements and the status quo order of things. These behaviors speak volumes: “we consent, we approve, we will not fight back.” Power, in the post-totalitarian era is not grounded in true belief so much as the public, collective expression of such complicit conformity, which serves to sustain the system in place and tacitly affirm its “rightness.”

In “Buttocks, 123,” Hei Yue – Jishengli tackles questions of authority from a different angle. Using a humorous, cheeky method to make a serious point, he dons the “split pants” of Chinese childhood, and spanks himself in public, often in front of symbols of tradition and authority or dominant values and notions of propriety. Wearing pants specially designed to reveal his butt, Hei Yue appears before various symbols of power, authority and tradition, and spanks himself repeatedly—Chinese policemen, Buddhist monks, Japanese fishermen in traditional (and more notably, butt-revealing) garb, and more. By spanking himself like this in public, he poses the question, who has the right to discipline and punish—and he answers it in turn by reclaiming the sovereign right for himself alone and rejecting the claims of a higher authority to mete out punishment.

Qing Qing’s “End of the Century Ambiguity” video work also employs a humorous device to make a cutting critique about contemporary masculinity, gender relations and the self-satisfied, complacent culture of consumptive excess and leisure idolized by the Chinese nouveau riche, and enjoyed disproportionately by men. If the sex trade—symbolized by massage and karaoke singing—has long been a rite of passage supplies the lubricant of political and business deal-brokering, taking place in settings in which women can have but one role, the meaning of former Traditional Chinese Medical doctor Qing Qing’s metaphorical send-up of the massage, by substituting and pig for the man, can hardly be misinterpreted.

In “Beijing Zoological Garden,” Ma Yongfeng also brings animals into his work, albeit in a different way. Here the passage is from a naïve childhood orientation towards nature, in which fantasies of the great and vast natural world are fueled by trips to the zoo, to a knowing adult complicity with the confining, cruel arrangements that place the human being in a hierarchical relationship to nature. Placing the pitiful images of the Beijing Zoo in the classical Chinese round frame, echoing Song Dynasty paintings, the aestheticization of routine suffering is brought to the fore. As we watch the animals attempting some semblance of a “life” in their cramped and miserable cement “habitats,” we learn more about ourselves than we do about these creatures. Nature exists here as rendered by the human imagination, and the poverty of vision and compassion that makes such conditions possible is what is inscribed most visibly in these scenes.

For the past decade Han Bing has engaged in an ongoing public performative intervention—“The Walking the Cabbage Project.” In this series of social intervention performance, video and photography works, Han Bing walks a Chinese cabbage on a leash in public places, inverting an ordinary practice to provoke debate and critical thinking. “Walking the Cabbage” is a playful twist on a serious subject—the way our everyday practices serve to constitute "normalcy" and our identities are often constituted by the act of claiming objects as our possessions. A quintessentially Chinese symbol of sustenance and comfort for poor Chinese turned upside down, Han Bing's cabbage on a leash offers a visual interrogation of contemporary social values. If a full stock of cabbage for the winter was once a symbol of material well-being in China, nowadays the nouveau riche have cast aside modest (monotonous) winters of cabbage in favor of ostentatious gluttony in fancy restaurants where waste signifies status. They flaunt "name brand" pooches, demonstrating how they no longer rely on the lowly cabbage, and can not only fatten themselves to obesity, but also pamper a pedigreed pet. Yet, for the poor and struggling, the realities of cabbage as a subsistence bottom line have not changed—what's changed is the value structure that dictates what—and who—is valuable or worthless in Chinese society. Han Bing's social intervention performance art practice has been conducted in a vast array in public spaces and quotidian social settings ranging from tiny rural villages to cosmopolitan metropolises across the globe; from flourishing downtown bastions of the white-collar consumer elite to the agricultural fields of the salt-of-the-earth rural laborers; from the Great Wall to the Mississippi River; from Miami Beach to the Champs Elysees; from Harajuku to Haight-Ashbury; from Tiananmen to Times Square.

This ongoing journey of Han Bing and his cabbage, mirrors, in many ways, the larger journey of China—from uniform poverty to an explosion of wealth for a few; from rural villages to massive megacities filled with hope and desperation; from the humble cabbage as a bottom line source of sustenance for ordinary people to the pedigreed lapdogs of the new rich—China is on the road and undergoing the difficult passage from one kind of society to another. But, as Han Bing’s work makes clear, this is not an unambiguous, teleological process from benighted backwardness to uplifted progress. Far from it, while the vast majority of people continue to struggle, and the reality is that the current order will not fulfill the dreams of most, it is the meretricious allure of the superficial new value system that keeps people pinning their hopes on a system that often works against their own interests.

We live in fragmented times, times that need an art that offers not only a mirror in which to see the status quo, but also transforms our understandings of ourselves, giving us new ways of seeing who we are and can be. Explorations of the everyday lived connections between the individual and the social, the micro and the macro, and the local and global realities that we all, increasingly face in this rapidly changing world, imbue this new generation of Chinese art with unprecedented global relevance.

©2009, Maya Kovskaya



CUI Xiuwen
Born in the 70s in China's Northeast, multidisciplinary artist Cui Xiuwen rose to fame in the late 90s with her provocative video, Lady's, featuring "ladies of the night" filmed in the liminal space—both public and private—of the Lady's Room in a karaoke hall. Her video and photography has been shown widely at major museums and galleries including, China Under Construction at Deborah Colton Gallery (USA, 2007); Dragon's Evolution exhibition, China Square, New York (USA, 2007); Engagements and Estrangements (Canada, 2006); P.S.1 (USA, 2006); Victoria and Albert Museum, (UK, 2005); Body Temperature (Denmark, 2005); “Untitied: Julia Loktev. Julika. Cui Xiuwen," Tate Modern (UK, 2004); “Alors. la China ? ” Center Pompidou (France, 2003); “Prague Biennale 1” (Czech, 2003); The first Guangzhou Triennial ” (PRC, 2002). Recent solo shows at venues including Marella, Beijing (PRC 2005); Marella (Italy, 2006) DF2 (USA, 2007); Florence Museum (Italy, 2007).

DAI Guangyu
Trailblazing leader of the Sichuanese performance art movement since the '85 New Art Wave, multidisciplinary artist Dai Guangyu (1955—) is internationally acclaimed for his contemporary reinventions of Chinese traditional ink wash and his pathbreaking contributions to China's public art, performance art and environmental art movements. Major exhibitions include “Made in China", Louisiana Museum (Denmark, 2007); China Under Construction at Deborah Colton Gallery (USA, 2007); "Inward Gazes - Performance Art in China - Exhibition by Invitation", Macau Art Museum, (Macau, 2005); "In Honour of '85", Duolun Modern Art Museum, Shanghai, (PRC, 2005); "The Wall: Reshaping Contemporary Chinese Art", China Millennium Monument Art Museum, Beijing (PRC, 2005); Dashanzi International Art Festival (PRC, 2004, 2005); "First Chinese Art Triennial", Guangzhou Art Museum (PRC, 2002);"China!", Museum of Modern Art, Bonn (Germany, 1996); the watershed "China Avant-Garde Art Exhibition", Chinese National Art Museum, (PRC, 1989); "Itinerary Exhibition of Modern Chinese Art", Bonn, Bremen, Frankfurt (Germany, 1987). Recent solo exhibitions include shows at Red Star Gallery at 798 Factory (PRC, 2007) and 10 Chancery Lane (Hong Kong, 2008).

HAN Bing
Han Bing (1974- ) grew up in an impoverished village in rural China. After studying painting in college, he undertook Advanced Studies at the Chinese Central Academy of Art. Exploring the struggles and desires of ordinary people in China's "theater of modernization," he employs photography, video, multimedia installation and performance, and his works invert quotidian practice, reinvent everyday objects and ask us to rethink the order of things. Han Bing's work has been shown worldwide at10th Annual Open International Performance Art Festival (PRC, 2009); MoNA Museum of New Art, Detroit (USA, 2009); New Art Gallery in Walsalle (UK, 2009); Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery in Vancouver (Canada, 2009); theCentre Pompidou (France, 2008); Asia Triennial Manchester (UK, 2008); Rencontres d'Arles Photography Festival (France, 2007); Columbia Museum of Art (USA, 2007); Fotographie Museum of Amsterdam (2005, Netherlands); DashanziInternational Art Festival DIAF (PRC, 2005, 2006; Pingyao Photography Festival (PRC, 2002); noteworthy group shows include China Under Construction: Contemporary Art from the People's Republic at Deborah Colton Gallery (USA, 2007); Dragon's Evolution: Chinese Contemporary Photography at the NYC China Square Art Center (USA, 2007), Beyond Experience: New China exhibition at Arario Beijing (PRC, 2006), LOVE Expo, Barcelona-Pekin-Paris, and Proyecto Generos at Espace Cultural Ample (Spain, 2006-2007), and many more. Solo shows include a joint solo show with Orimoto Tatsumi, Quotidian Iconic—Quotidian Holy Mother, Jing Art Gallery (PRC, 2006); Age of Big Construction, at Beijing New Art Projects (PRC, 2007), Love in the Age of Big Construction at UC Berkeley (USA, 2006), The Other Shore of Desire at UCLA (USA, 2006); Everyday Desire in the Theater of Chinese Modernization at Beursschouwburg Art Center (Belgium, 2007); and The Fatalistic Language of Things at the Columbia Art Museum (USA, 2007) and a solo show at Espace Cultural Ample (Spain, 2008).

HEI Yue ·JI Shengli
Born in Qinghai Province, Hei Yue·Ji Shengli graduated from Qinghai Pedagogic College and moved to Beijing in 1991. When he adopted the name "Black Moon" (Hei Yue), back in the heyday of the Yuanmingyuan artist colony, he could hardly have known the intimate connections in English between the verb "to moon" and the performance art that would bring him fame, using his buttocks. "123 Buttocks" is the title of Hei Yue’s ongoing performance art and video, photography and painting series, acclaimed in the US and China, as well as Japan. His work has been featured across Asia at the Macao Museum of Art, Dashanzi International Art Festival in China, the Nippon Performance Art Festival in Japan, the Korean International Performance Art Festival, the Taiwan International Performance Art Festival; in Hungary at the International Media Festival, and at the Estonian Documentary Film Festival, and at the Ethan Cohen Gallery in New York. This year his solo exhibition at the Rain Gallery at 798 unveiled his new series of oil paintings.

MA Yongfeng
Hailing from Shanxi, China, Ma Yongfeng (1971—) is known for his video and medium-large format photography works. Investigating "scientific" typologies, taxonomies and conceptions on "Nature" and the "natural world," his work reflects his preoccupations with the social construction of knowledge and aesthetic systems. China Under Construction at Deborah Colton Gallery (USA, 2007); Fractured Visions: Chinese Video Art, Center for Asian Studies, University of South Carolina, USA; ), Dragon's Evolution, at China Square in New York (USA, 2007); The Thirteen: Chinese Video Now, P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center at MOMA, New York & Platform China Contemporary Art Institute, Beijing (USA, PRC, 2006); VideoZone3: The 3rd International Video-Art Biennial in Israel, The Center for Contemporary Art, Tel Aviv (Israel, 2006); China Action 1-2, Centre chorégraphique national de Tours (France, 2005); Videonale 10 , Kunstmuseum Bonn (Germany, 2005); How Can You Resist? Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (USA, 2004). Solo exhibitions include, Becoming Landscape, Platform China Contemporary Art Institute, Beijing (PRC, 2006) and The Cretaceous Period, Artsway, Hampshire (UK, 2007).


Qing Qing
Beijing-born Qing Qing gained international recognition for her diorama installations and hemp fiber "artificial artifacts." Her unique visual language engages a symbolic universe that plays lightly on the ugly ironies of the contemporary world. Group exhibitions include, China Under Construction, Deborah Colton Gallery, (USA, 2007); Beyond Experience: The New China, Arario Beijing (PRC, 2006); Floating – New Generation of Art in China, Seoul (Korea, 2007); Documentation of Chinese Avant-Garde Art in 90s, Fukuoka Asian Art Museum, (Japan, 2001). Solo exhibitions include shows at Gallery Wort und Bild, Vienna (Austria, 1997); AAL-Gallery Karl Strobe, Vienna (Austria, 1999); Red Gate Gallery, Beijing (PRC, 1999); Chinese Contemporary, London (UK, 2000) Red Gate Gallery, Beijing (PRC, 2002);Today Art Museum, Beijing, (PRC, 2002); 798 Dashanzi Art District, Beijing (PRC, 2004); Tokyo Gallery (Japan, 2005); Ullen's Center Dayaolu Space, 798 Dashanzi Art District, Beijing, (PRC, 2005).


Curator Bio

Maya Kóvskaya is a Beijing-based art critic and curator with over a decade in China. She has curated numerous exhibitions including Love in the Age of Big Construction (PRC and USA, 2006), Quotidian Iconic (co-curated, PRC, 2006), The Other Shore of Desire (USA, 2006) Estrangements and Engagements (Canada, 2006), Misalignments (USA, 2006), Other Modernities (USA, 2006), The Fatalistic Language of Things (USA, 2007), and The Fragmented Gaze (USA, 2007), China Under Construction (USA, 2007) and others. Her writing has appeared in numerous art catalogues, academic volumes, and magazines, including Contemporary, Yishu: Journal Chinese Contemporary Art, Flash Art, Art Post, Art iT, Eyemazing: International Contemporary Photography Magazine and positions: east asia cultures critique. She is currently writing a book on Chinese contemporary art.

Works Screened by:
CUI Xiuwen
DAI Guangyu
HAN Bing
HEI Yue
Ji Shengli
MA Yongfeng
Qing Qing
Mar 6
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Ma Yongfeng, Volcano, C-type Print (2007)

HAMPSHIRE, UK.- ArtSway will feature Ma Yongfeng: The Cretaceous Period, on view 28 July - 16 September 2007. The Cretaceous Period is the first UK solo exhibition of art work by Ma Yongfeng. Ma Yongfeng is a Beijing-based artist who has received international recognition for his photographic and video pieces examining the ways that humans position themselves in relation to the natural world. The artist describes his photographic work and video installations as “relating to aspects of animal culture, man-made environments and topographic modelling”. Hosted at the Chinese Art Centre in Manchester for three months and subsequently in residence at ArtSway, Ma Yongfeng has spent a total of five months researching and developing his work.

Ma Yongfeng came to international prominence with his notorious work, Swirl (2003), exhibited at MOCA in Los Angeles, and PS1 in New York in which six coy carp were subjected to a fifteen minute wash cycle in the drum of a washing machine. The work raised a debate about the human treatment of animals both within and outside an artistic context. The artist has continued to explore the relationship between humans and their nature displays, photographing empty dioramas and “natural habitat” enclosures in zoos and museums, and revealing the centrality of humans and their own narratives in these spaces.

During his residency in Manchester, Ma Yongfeng visited numerous zoos and museums and conducted exhaustive research relating to all aspects of Natural History. For his subsequent residency and exhibition at ArtSway the artist has chosen to focus on a significant period in Earth’s history, The Cretaceous Period, after which he has named the exhibition of video works and large-scale photographs. These images examine the cretaceous period in relation to the artist’s continuing research into natural history, animal culture and fossil archaeology alongside his interest in archaeological simulations, geographical models and displays in natural history museums. Ma Yongfeng’s new work has developed from the photography of animal enclosures and man-made environments to the documentation and recreation of these sites as ‘sets’ in his own studio, as in the work of German photographer Thomas Demand. Ma’s images, however, create what he terms an “installation after an installation”, referencing and refashioning earlier media such as television, stage-production, film set building and installation. Hibernation (2007) depicts a bright chocolate box snow-scene in which one imagines a hiding animal, and the photographic work Volcano (2007) depicts a miniature volcano, complete with authentic looking lava that the artist constructed in his studio in Beijing. This working volcano is also featured in one of two video works in The Cretaceous Period, and comments upon the relationship between artificial environments, natural habitats and aesthetics.

Ma Yongfeng was born in Shanxi, China in 1971 and is a media artist currently based in Beijing. He has exhibited widely across Europe, the United States and China – most recently in Chinese Video Now at the John Hansard Gallery, The Fragmented Gaze: Video Art from the PRC at Deborah Colten Gallery, Houston TX, and Becoming Landscape, Platform China Contemporary Art Institute, Beijing. He was selected for a residency by ArtSway and the Chinese Art Centre Manchester from an exceptional shortlist of artists nominated by Chinese curators and professionals.

http://www.artdaily.com/indexv5.asp?int_sec=11&int_new=20842
Dec 22
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7:22am  Dec. 22, 2009

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4:58pm  Dec. 22, 2009

Streetlight in Beijing, 2009
Off at 7:22am   On at 4:58pm    
Totally duration of 14 hours and 22 minutes between the two moment

北京路灯

2009年12月22日,星期二,农历十一月初七,冬至。
关闭时间早上7点22分,开启时间下午4点58分。
在两个时刻之间(夜间)总共运行了14个小时22分钟。

关注这期间内的光线变化、能量传输和时间流逝。
然后用扩音器告诉街上的行人准确的关闭和开启时间,以及持续了多长时间。
Dec 19
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7.51am 2009.12.18

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4.34pm 2009.12.18

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Streetlight in Berlin, 2009
On at 4:34pm   Off at 7:51am    
Totally duration of 15 hours and 17 minutes between the two moment

Two photographs, live voice with a megaphone telling the passengers in the street and
audience in the opening at Freies Museum about the accurate moment of streetlight's on
and off and how long it lasted in one day in Berlin.

Ma Yongfeng
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