imPOSSIBLE: Eight Chinese Artists
imPOSSIBLE: Eight Chinese Artists
February 13 – April 18, 2009
Locations and Opening Receptions:
SFAC Gallery Reception, Friday, February 20, 6 – 8pm
Mission 17 Reception, Friday, February 13, 6 – 8pm
Gallery 401 Van Ness Artists: Lu Chunsheng (Shanghai), Xing Danwen (Beijing), Ni Haifeng (Amsterdam), Zhu Jia (Beijing), Xu Zhen (Shanghai) and Michael Zheng (San Francisco & Beijing),
Mission 17 Artists: Yang Zhenzhong (Shanghai) and Shi Yong (Shanghai)
The San Francisco Arts Commission Gallery and Mission 17 present imPOSSIBLE; an exhibition in two locations featuring video and photography by eight renowned Chinese artists who engage absurdity and theatricality in their works to comment on recent sociopolitical and economic circumstances in China.
In 2007 artist Michael Zheng was part of a group of Chinese artists, five based in China and two members of the Chinese Diaspora, who met in Beijing to discuss commonalities in their work and how they might join forces to organize an exhibition showcasing their various points of view. The gathered artists reflected on China’s tremendous transformations on economic, social and political fronts. How do Chinese artists survive these kinds of changes?
In many cases, this reality comes through in artwork that has a highly exaggerated sensibility, as if to match the absurdity of the social reality. The artists in the exhibition resort to humor and irony to cope with their own lives; highlighting China’s current conditions through theatrical, satirical, fantastical and psychologically twisted imagery. Video, with its capacity to construct narrative, has become an effective device for communicating. On one end of the spectrum, theatricality serves to reflect the absurdity of the real world, at the other end humor could be viewed as a sign of resignation in the face of the same extremism. In a situation where radical change becomes an everyday experience the artists found that they were each utilizing strategies involving absurdity and theatricality in order to make works that both reconcile the past with the present and highlight the pace of contemporary life in China.
Globalization and China’s open policy put forth by the late Deng Xiaoping and carried out till now have enabled many Chinese artists to move outside of China and participate in the global art scene. Many of these artists have additional art education and exposure in the West. China’s changes are reflected in these Chinese artists works with an additional layer of filtration. Their works often show the Chinese reality from a more global perspective, with a level of detachment resulted from the distance. Two of the participants in this show, Ni Haifeng and Michael Zheng, have gone similar routes of leaving China around the time of the Tian’anmen Incident, and finding themselves creating works based on such transitions and displacement. While their works bring a different level of detachment from the immediate Chinese reality, they nonetheless reflect the deep rooted effect of the Chinese cultural and ideological tradition. And they exhibit a similar sensibility towards the absurd and theatricality in their artistic language.
It is important to note that this is not a curated exhibition, but rather a collective of artists who share similar artistic strategies that unify varied viewpoints. As a group, we will work with the hosting institutions on final exhibition content and design.
Reflecting on the recent developments of Chinese history, the Cultural Revolution has become a short-term memory, the socialist system has taken a broad stride toward capitalism, the call to become rich has been written into the official communist agenda, the Tian’anmen Incident has been subjugated to make way for the larger interest of creating an economic boom, and the loosening of the governmental control on both the economic and political fronts have all created a mutating social reality that is changing at a dizzying pace. The current economic boom has created a euphoria that fills Chinese citizens with hope and everybody seems to be at a mad rush to some grand vision of success, however illusive this success might be. The new wealth has spurred an unprecedented appetite for consumption. The large population and even larger need for transportation has created an impossible daily traffic deadlock; the extreme polarity created by the early success of these capitalist experiments; the absolute corruption that leaves most people gasping for air; the inundation of media, the non-stop, all around noise created by traffic and dins of all kinds—all seem to be driving everybody to the edge.