Living in Interesting Times - A Decade of New Chinese Photography
MU Chen » ZHU Fadong » WENG Fen » ZHENG Guogu » HONG Hao » ZHUANG Hui » WANG Jinsong » HONG Lei » Feng Mengbo » OU Ning » WANG Ningde » RONG Rong » RongRong & inri » SHAO Yinong & MU Chen » Ai Weiwei » DONG Wensheng » ZHOU Xiaohu » CANG Xin » HUANG Yan » QIU Zhijie »
Exhibition: 5 Feb – 30 Jun 2005
The Open Museum of Photography at Tel Hai
M.P Upper Galilee 12100
Sun-Thu 8-16 . Sat 10-17
curator: Mrs. Iris Wachs & Mr. Gu Zhenqing The entrance of the international global environment into China, closed away by war and political agendas for much of the last century, has brought in its train massive transformations of the nation’s physical and social fabric. The organization of personal relationships based on large families employed in agricultural pursuits loses relevance in the new urban-centered economy and breaks down under the government-mandated One Child Family. The questions that vibrate in the Chinese experience today, as the nation sprints toward the future, all originate in the phenomena of change and globalization. From the late nineteenth century, when photography studios became common in China, and prior to 1949 and the founding of the People’s Republic of China, the camera functioned primarily as a recorder of family, group and public events, and for commercial advertisements. After 1949, there was little private access to cameras or film, and photojournalism was tightly controlled by the Ministry of Propaganda. Only in the early 1990s, more than a decade and a half after the Open Door Policy began in 1979, did Chinese artists become fully aware of the contemporary international art scene and the camera’s usefulness as an instrument for the art of ideas. Globally popular modes of photography were reinvented, reinterpreted and related to a different – Chinese – visual experience. The exhibition photographers choose the camera as their tool of art creation because it can be manipulated to express the speed, magnitude and nature of the metamorphosis taking place in China, while the conventional assumption that cameras record reality can be finessed to comment on the nature of illusion and identity, problematic concepts in a society in flux. Modern instruments invented beyond China’s shores, cameras – and their usage – add another layer to the images’ meaning, functioning as symbols of the foreign and the modern, in opposition to traditional culture. Most of the exhibition photographers trained at prestigious art education institutions in printmaking, oil painting and traditional Chinese media, and most continue working in other media in parallel to their use of the camera. All are familiar with the latest foreign currents in art, all are familiar with the theoretical criticism created to explain them, and their works are chosen for international venues of contemporary art. Agile artists, they delight in the camera and digital instruments, artifacts of the new technological environment in which they live. Most are also engaged artists, concerned with the problems of the new Chinese society. The exhibition is organized around several major themes: traditional visual culture as a commentary on the New China; the impact of the One Child Family; the changing role of the group as a source of identity; the emergence of individualism; and the impact of consumerism and globalization on society and the Chinese artist. Even when photographs have succinct graphic qualities that the eye quickly apprehends, they resonate to a Chinese viewer in ways not evident to others; the visitor is invited to enjoy the insights provided by the accompanying explanations.