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Chinese art to be staged at Venice Biennale

By Liao Danlin (Global Times)

08:56, 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

The 55th Venice Biennale is scheduled for June 1 to November 24. However, the discussions about the event, regarding this year's theme, what artists to include and the design of the Chinese pavilion started at the beginning of this year.

China has taken part in the Venice Biennale for eight years now. Although it is not a long time compared to the event's 120-year history, the Chinese pavilion has attracted attention and stirred up discussion from year to year.

This time, the director Massimiliano Gioni's theme, The Encyclopedic Palace, gives more free space for international artists. Inspired by Italian-American artist Marion Auriti's concept of an encyclopedic museum created in 1955, the theme breaks the boundary of the art we are familiar with, allowing all kinds of innovations in arts to be involved.

Gioni said during the press conference held in October last year that "It's the crazy dream, bordering between knowledge and madness, image and imagination."

Transforming image

On the Chinese side, a big breakthrough was a new space for the pavilion. In past years, the pavilion was filled with huge oil drums, leaving limited space for the artists.

As those drums were part of Venice's industrial history, Chinese artists who participated in the Biennale created artworks based on the "oilcan spaces."

This March, with help from China's Ministry of Culture and other supporting organizations, the oil drums were finally removed (with only one left) at a cost of almost $300,000.

In February, among all the submitted plans, Wang Chunchen's Transfiguration stood out to be selected as the theme of the Chinese pavilion.

Wang, an associate professor from China Central Academy of Fine Arts, borrowed the term from The Transfiguration of the Commonplace (1984), written by American philosopher and art theorist Arthur Danto, to review the changes of Chinese art as well as the Chinese society in its 30 years of contemporary art development.

Wang explained that "transfiguration" was originally a religious term but was later used broadly in a similar way as "transformation." He added that the word here also refers to the surpassing of the gap between life and art and also echoes the ongoing changes of the contemporary international society.

"The proposition of Chinese art is no longer a one-way street but also intertwines and conveys how the Chinese perceive the world," Wang wrote in his introduction of Chinese pavilion.

At the end of April, Wang and the seven artists he selected released their full project plan through a press conference at which each artist introduced their work to the public.

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