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'Crossroads' of cultural influences

(Global Times)

11:31, June 05, 2013

Kacey Wong in his Sleepwalker Photo: Courtesy of He Xiangning Art Museum

These days with the ever quickening pace of global travel and communication, people are no longer stuck with only one identity. Most of the time, we are at a crossroads of two or more cultures' influence.

With this in mind, an artistic exchange project called Crossroads ⋅ Another Dimension was launched between the mainland, Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan at Shenzhen's He Xiangning Art Museum on June 1.

Having invited 16 contemporary artists from the four regions - such as Xu Bing (mainland), Bianca Lei Sio Chong (Macao), Tsui Kuang-yu (Taiwan) and Kacey Wong (Hong Kong) - the project is a combination of exhibition, forum and public sharing.

The artworks include installations, video, mixed-media and paintings. After the one-month activity ends in Shenzhen on June 30, similar projects will follow in Macao, Kaohsiung and Hong Kong and will last until early 2014.

Real give-and-take

Feng Boyi, the major curator of this year's artistic exchange project, told the media at a press conference on the opening day that before Crossroads, He Xiangning Art Museum had already launched four similar projects since 2008 - Departure (2008), The Butterfly Effect (2010), 1+1 (2011) and It Takes Four Sorts (2012). But he does not want to do things in the usual manner.

"Often when an exhibition contains works of artists from different places, people will call it an 'exchange,' but in fact few exchanges happen among artists," Feng said.

So in the 1+1 exhibition, artists from the four regions were asked to cooperate with each other on joint works. By drawing numbers out of a hat, each artist would be paired with another artist beyond their homeland. And in It Takes Four Sorts, curators of the four regions were asked to curate a local exhibition in another region.

This year, as Feng introduced, communications have already gone far beyond the four regions. The current situation is that an artist seldom stays in one nation but continuously changes his or her sources of inspiration whether it be from traveling, working or living. Therefore, as different cultures influence an artist, culture exchanges or clashes naturally happen on his or her work.

Besides Book From the Ground, a trademark art series of mainland artist Xu Bing, he also brings a work named Telephone. Inspired from a children's game in the US called "telephone," in which a sentence gets carried on from one person to another until the last one is asked to speak out what he or she heard, Xu's work is an experiment in cross-language translation. A Chinese text is translated into English, and the English one translated into French, then to Russian, German, Spanish, Japanese, Thai, until finally it is translated back to Chinese. Viewers see some parts of the final version differing from the original, showing that when people from different language backgrounds communicate with each other, meanings can be distorted.

Another interesting exhibit, by Hong Kong artist Kacey Wong, is called Sleepwalker, which transforms a bunk bed into a tricycle. Wong explained that as one rises up in the morning, a new beginning starts, and the bed is the point of appearance. But when it is time to leave the world, and the body is resting on the bed, it becomes the point of disappearance. In a high-speed city, a collective memory shows that when bodies are exhausted and should be taking some rest, they have to continue working and push ahead.

Aside from exhibiting works, encouraging dialogue between the four regions is also a very important component of an exchange project according to Feng. Therefore, forums are a standing part of every year's project with topics varying from the contemporary situation to the relationships between art and politics.

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