New York curator Klaus Biesenbach talks to Marianna Cerini about digital art and working with Adrian Cheng
Klaus Biesenbach is a major innovative force in the curatorial world. His work as director of New York’s MOMA Ps1—one of the globe’s most important modern art institutions—has had a far-reaching effect on the way contemporary art is approached and perceived. This month he brings to Hong Kong .com/.cn, a group exhibition of Chinese and international artists that coincides with the Art Basel fair. Developed in partnership with Adrian Cheng and his K11 Art Foundation, and with the support of MOMA PS1 curator Peter Eleey, the show explores intersections between artistic practice in China and the West in the internet age through installations, paintings and sculptures, focusing on the question of how artists deal with the World Wide Web in their creative process.
Why did you decide to focus on digital multimedia art for this exhibition?
Researching, image making, and image publishing are increasingly happening digitally. What triggered my curiosity was the way artists from different parts of the world engage with their online world. I am interested in creating a dialogue about these engagements and their relevance.
How did your partnership with the K11 Art Foundation come about?
Adrian Cheng and I met and began talking about doing a possible research project together in 2015. I have visited China many times since, most recently in November to prepare the show. Our partnership is far from over—i see this as an ongoing study.
Why have you focused China?
I’ve been intrigued and fascinated by China for quite some time. Doing something with local artists just felt like a natural step. MOMA PS1 also has something we call our China initiative to engage with art and artists from the region.
What is it like working with Adrian?
A real pleasure. Adrian and I visited many studios together in China, but also New York. The K11 Art Foundation has the most incredible research team and artist support infrastructure. They are creating points of access for artists across China. Adrian is extremely knowledgeable; he listens and is incredibly receptive. What are the main differences in the digital artistic practices of China and the West, and what are the points of intersection? In several studio visits, we discussed the idea of using Facebook as an artist communication tool and Google as a research tool, and their analogous platforms in China, but since they are not the same, the ensuing approaches have inherently been different. At the same time, one of the main conclusions from .com/.cn is that the internet is our common everyday source of stimulation, inspiration, challenge, dialogue and learning. Spending time in front of your computer or with your smartphone has become not only an extension of your own body, but also an extension of institutions like libraries, museums, research labs and public podiums. This exhibition is trying to lay out some of these aspects in front of the viewer.
Is there a specific artwork in the show you’re particularly drawn to?
Li Ming’s Straight Line, Landscape (2014) [below]. For it, the artist made observations during a hike, all the while using Google Earth to depict his route, so you have a very personal view juxtaposed with the omniscient view 10,000 feet above.
.com/.cn runs from March 21 to April 30 at the K11 Art Foundation Pop-up Space, G/F, Cosco Tower, 33 Wing Lok Street, Sheung Wan. An opening reception and artist talk will take place on March 20.