Chinese Art Marches Forward

By Hu Bei Source:Global Times Published: 2013-7-25 19:18:01

Why Not Sneeze, Rose Sélavy? is a 1921 "ready-made" installation by Marcel Duchamp. It is a birdcage that contains 152 white marble cubes which resemble sugar, a mercury thermometer, a piece of cuttlebone and a tiny porcelain dish.

Four contemporary Chinese artists, Zhao Junyuan, Xu Zhe, Tao Yi and Li Mu, who form a Guangdong-based artist group named Zuzhi (Organization), believe that Duchamp's Why Not Sneeze, Rose Sélavy? perfectly captures the philosophy of their collective. Therefore, they adopted the name Why Not Sneeze for their art project launched last September.

<em>Why Not Sneeze</em> Photos: Courtesy of the museum

Why Not Sneeze Photo: Courtesy of the museum


At the time, the artists were trying to figure out a suitable way of conveying and introducing knowledge about contemporary art to children. "Especially given the current education system in China, all the teaching models and content are ready-made and the publishing of contemporary art for children is non-existent in China," Li said.

The artists launched a series of four books called Introduce Contemporary Art to Children. In one of the books, entitled There Is No Right Answer in Art, Zhao designed a series of mathematical problems merged with classic art works that he hoped would encourage kids to become interested in art through solving math problems. Of course, there are no fixed correct answers for these questions.

As well as publishing the book collection, Zuzhi also held a workshop with children aged 8 to 12 in a Guangzhou community where they restaged some of art history's most seminal performance art pieces, like German artist Joseph Beuys' 1974 performance, I Like America and America Likes Me. Two months later, their re-creation was edited into a 29-minute long video work entitled Sun.

Starting from July 19, both the book series and the video are on display at the ongoing exhibition at Minsheng Art Museum, Forward! - Contemporary Art and Contemporary City I. The exhibition also presents an art project by Shi Yijie and Tang Darao, and also the works of three Chinese solo artists, Song Kun, Kang Haitao and Wu Jian'an.

Li Feng, the curator of Forward!, noted at the press conference last Friday that the participating artists are all active in major Chinese cities, including Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and other art hubs like Chengdu.

Li said, "The exhibition will be a sustained project, which mainly explores how artists make their artworks in relation to their city and their society. This exhibition is just the first installment."

<em>Seven Layered Shell</em> Photos: Courtesy of the museum

Seven Layered Shell Photo: Courtesy of the museum


Artist Wu Jian'an doesn't think that contemporary art can coexist harmoniously with a contemporary city. "I believe that the ideal role that contemporary art plays should be a troublemaker who often embarrasses and wipes off the veil that is the disguise of the city," Wu said.

Although he has a great interest in the films and music of David Lynch, Wu's artworks mainly focus on ancient civilizations. Seven Layered Shell is made up of seven works each represented by 360 little paper men that look like Chinese shadow puppets. The paper men are made of rice paper with a silk framed back, and are hung on the temporary crossbeams above the exhibition hall. They look like ancient Chinese scroll paintings.

"Forward is not only China's inevitable path in its urbanization, but also the attitude that a contemporary artist must have. During the course of moving forward, an artist can't help thinking about their relationship to society, no matter what they believe, whether the relationship is harmonious or not," said Li.

Date: Until August 27, 10 am to 9 pm (closed on Mondays)

Venue: Minsheng Art Museum


Address: Building F, 570 Huaihai Road West 淮海西路570号F座

Admission: 20 yuan (free after 6 pm)

Call 6282-8729 for details

Posted in: Metro Shanghai

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