A contemporary art exhibition in Beijing shows the works of some 40 artists and provides clues to future trends. Lin Qi reports.
As technology enriches forms of individual expression, there are worries that it will gain even more control of people’s lives.
So, how will the relationship between humans and technology evolve? How will human society change as machines and robots take on more manual jobs?
As people experience an explosion of information, are they becoming insensitive to their surroundings?
These topics are in the spotlight at a contemporary art exhibition now on at Minsheng Art Museum Beijing.
The third Exhibition of Annual of Contemporary Art of China looks at these developments in Chinese art in 2016, showing the works of some 40 artists and providing clues to future trends.
The artists are featured in the latest issue of Annual of Contemporary Art of China, a book published by the Center for Visual Studies of Peking University.
The book, which was released at the opening of the exhibition, showcases the center’s efforts to monitor the contemporary art scene.
It features events, exhibitions and artists’ creations in 2016.
Since 2015, the center has collaborated with the art museum in Beijing to stage an exhibition every year of artworks featured in the annual publication.
The latest book says more than 3,780 contemporary art exhibitions were held in the country in 2016, an increase of nearly 200 compared with 2015.
The Minsheng exhibition focuses on established artists, who have spearheaded the rise of Chinese contemporary art, and also those whose works have received good reviews and market response.
The late artist Chen Shaoxiong’s work The View, a fourchannel video installation, is on show.
It was also on show at Chen’s solo exhibition at Beijing’s Tang Contemporary Art Gallery, which ended on Nov 27 in 2016, a day after Chen died.
Chen, a graduate of the Guangzhou Academy of Fine Arts, had co-founded Da Wei Xiang, an important experi-
11 am-6 pm, Mondays closed, through Aug 3. Minsheng Art Museum Beijing, Universal Creative Park, 9 Jiuxianqiao Bei Lu, Chaoyang district, Beijing. 010-5323-2111.
mental art group in Guangzhou in the early 1990s.
His conceptual works combine photographs, videos, installations and ink-brush paintings.
In his works, he examined the changing landscape of Chinese urbanization, and invited audiences to reflect on the manic and ridiculous aspects of city life.
In The View, animated inkbrush paintings of day-to-day scenes, such as abandoned railways, bare tree branches and night views, are projected on four standing screens that form a circle. When visitors stand before the screens, their silhouettes become part of the works.
Chen once said: “What we see is not what we think. What we want to see is not what we are supposed to see.”
His wife Luo Qingmin says that in his last days, when he was sick, he was even more sensitive to the surrounding scenery, religion and life, and she says that Chen used the circle of four screens to indicate the circle of life, “a timeless feeling like that of lights at night”.
Meanwhile, new media artist Tian Xiaolei from Beijing, who was born in 1982, takes a visual approach to expressing his understanding of the relationship between people and their environment that has been reshaped by technological progress.
His work Eternity shows a 3-minute-long animation.
He creates “an imagined utopia”, in which there is no distinction between a human and a robot: They work together, they fight each other, and they fall in love.
With the assistance of virtual reality technology, viewers “enter” a surreal world and “embrace an uncertain future for human society”, says Tian.
Zhou Yan, who was the curator of Tian’s recent exhibition in Toronto, says his output celebrates social landscapes that have been transformed by computers, mobile phones and the internet, but also reveal the anxieties and loneliness deep in people’s hearts.
Zhu Qingsheng, the Minsheng exhibition curator and a history professor at Peking University, says that while the ancient Chinese saw classic mountain-and-water paintings as “wo you (bed travel)”, meaning that one could enjoy landscapes by looking at paintings and not leave home, in the modern world people no longer need the paintings.
“The internet has turned the world into a network of information that connects people even more closely than how people connected with nature earlier,” Zhu says.
He says while “bed travel” moved people with beautiful landscape, today there is a new form of that travel — accessible information through all kinds of devices — that is invading people’s lives.
Zhu Qingsheng, curator of the show
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