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Chinese art to be staged at Venice Biennale (2)

By Liao Danlin (Global Times)

09:25, May 07, 2013

Shu Yong's Guge Bricks show popular Chinese online phrases with their English translation according to Google. Photos: Courtesy of Wang Chunchen

Multimedia presentation

For the space outside the Chinese pavilion there will be three installations. The Water of Venice by He Yunchang presents 2,013 glass bottles filled with water, and each has a tag of a number and the artist's signature. In the scene there will also be water provided for the audience to fill their own container and write their own names on a new tag to exchange with the artist's bottle. The work aims to bring a sense of sharing and communication in a global society.

Hu Yaolin has been a controversial artist since he was selected to be one of the seven going to Venice, because he is not technically an artist. Hu is a culturist and for years has worked on the preservation of old Chinese buildings. This time, he is going to bring an architectural installation to Venice: Thing-in-itself, which recalls the memories of traditional culture and heritage.

Shu Yong's Guge Bricks printed popular online Chinese phrases on special bricks he made. Every brick also has its English translation copied directly from the Google translation. The work presents Chinese issues with an international vision. It also reviews the Bible between different cultures through the clunky or sometimes nonsensical translations. The form reflects distinct characteristics of the era.

Inside the pavilion will be Miao Xiaochun's new digital art project, Tong Hongsheng's paintings of still items, Wang Qingsong's tableau photography and Zhang Xiaotao's animation.

Contemporary art in China is multidimensional. The selected artists and their works open up discussions of the artists' sometimes blurred identity and the question of what contemporary art truly is. The multiple possibilities of art expression presented in these works also correspond to both the Transfiguration theme and the Biennale theme The Encyclopedic Palace.

Fan Di'an, curator of the National Art Museum of China, said at the press conference that the fact that most of the works were not specially created for the Venice trip but rather were selected from the artist's existing work reflects the changed relationship between Chinese artist's creations and international exhibitions. Chinese artists today are not restricted to any set answers like before. They are more free and independent.

The changing view

Alongside the official Biennale there are also many parallel exhibitions that accept applications from artists. As a result, many Chinese artists are going to spend their summer in Venice.

Wang said that although these exhibitions have nothing to do with the Chinese pavilion, they all represent part of what is happening in China's art world today.

Chinese people in general used to have an extremely serious attitude when it came to international events or competitions such as the Oscars, Nobel prizes, Olympic Games or the Venice Biennale.

Since there are more opportunities opening up for Chinese artists now, some have started to doubt the prestige of the Venice Biennale and the value of spending so much effort to participate.

Fan said that industry insiders in China now often hold complicated emotions towards the Venice Biennale: a bit love, a bit hate and a bit vexed.

"Every time we search the general characteristics of world art, we see the Biennale's position as a platform for building up dialogues. Does the world really understand Chinese art? Artists are not coming to Venice as celebrities to represent the whole of China, but they do represent an essential part of Chinese art. They need to be surefooted," said Fan.

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