The age of ambivalence

By Chen Shasha Source:Global Times Published: 2018/2/1 18:18:39

12th Shanghai Biennale international contemporary art event arrives November

The 12th Shanghai Biennale, an international contemporary art event, will take place at the Power Station of Art (PSA) of Huangpu district from November 10, 2018 to March 10, 2019 with the theme "Proregress - Art in an Age of Historical Ambivalence," the museum announced Wednesday.

Cuauhtémoc Medina, an art critic, curator and historian from Mexico, has been appointed as the chief curator of the event. Medina previously worked in Europe and currently is the chief curator of National Autonomous University of Mexico.

Being active on the international stage of art, Medina has extensive curatorial experiences, a rich knowledge in art history as well deep research into Latin-American contemporary art.

According to Gong Yan, the director of PSA, the museum's academic committee believes that Medina's background has enhanced his observational and critical abilities. Gong said that the Mexican curator and his team are discussing plans for the event, which will include about 70 global artists.

Launched in 1996, Biennale claims to be the first international contemporary art biennial on the Chinese mainland. It has grown into a significant platform showcasing global contemporary art pieces, featured by a gathering of innovative and excellent curators and artists who explore the connection between urban life, contemporary art and the public.

This year, the event aims to discover how art will continue to make sense in this rapidly changing world against the challenges that global society are faced with due to the accelerated economic and cultural transformation.

Stop and think

Medina mentioned in an article he wrote for the event that "Proregress" is a word created by E. E Cummings (1894-1962), an American poet, in 1931 combining "progress" and "regress."

"The constant combination of gain and loss, openness and fear, acceleration and reaction, which defines our era of 'proregression,' also exists as a sensibility characterized by profound ambivalence," Medina wrote. "In this context, contemporary culture appears as a complex site of reflection defined by excess and powerlessness, transgression and repression, social activism and many brands of nihilism."

Proregress, he said, provides a framework to explore the role of contemporary art which reflects the struggles and anxieties of many different latitudes, which turns them into subjective experiences and allows people to tolerate the contradictory forces of contemporary life.

Medina added that people might feel that the word ­"Proregress" doesn't make any sense when they first read it.

"It doesn't really make too much sense, but it really forces you to stop to read. I would hope that this is what Biennale does rather than dictating to people what they should think. It actually makes people stop and think," he said.

Cultural gap

The event also uses yübu, dance steps used in ancient ­Taoism rituals featured by moving forward and backward at the same time, as the Chinese theme, hoping to illustrate to the audience the importance of looking for a new way of cultural thinking.

Gong thinks that China's improving political and economic status on the international stage has brought opportunities and voices for its culture development.

However, in the construction of contemporary culture, there is still a gap between China and Western countries. "Confidence is not only a slogan. What we need is to sink in mind, contemplate and create," she said.

She contends that the level of contemporary culture has become a key index of the internationalization of a city. "The cultural vanguard of Shanghai need more courage, resolution and insight to explore, communicate and debate, and to experience trial and error. Biennale provides such a platform," she said.

Scenery of the Power Station of Art Photo: Courtesy of the Power Station of Art


Exhibits at Biennale in previous years Photo: Courtesy of the Power Station of Art


Exhibits at Biennale in previous years Photo: Courtesy of the Power Station of Art



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