Thursday, September 21, 2006

Survival of the Fittest in Business

We visited the MoCA during its exhibition MoCA Envisage—Entry Gate: Chinese Aesthetics of Heterogeneity. The first impression left on me was made by the structural design of the MoCA. Built from glass and steel, the MoCA represents transparency that contains the ingenuity, creativity, and social and personal experience of artists in regards to aesthetics, emotions, and experience. In an architectural respect, the MoCA perfectly illustrates the Envisage theme through the convergence of glass and steel to encase and craft perception flawlessly and lure the audience to perceive the art within.

As I explored the MoCA, the variety and originality exhibited by the many artworks attracted me in all directions and allowed my imagination and perspective to converge with the artist’s. The art works exhibited in the MoCA reflect the progressive impression modernity instills in everyday life, in society, culture and individuals. These artworks are inspired and illustrate the union of aesthetics with the daily lives of individuals and their interactive positions in society. As the artworks represent the perspectives and experience of artists in China or of Chinese origin, their ingenuity reflects the development and transformation of China and Chinese elements in life.

The piece that completely and immediately caught my attention is Andre Cervera’s painting “Story of Chinese Business.” As I first saw the picture, a black and white drawing of ancient Chinese men gathering around a table and complimented by a dynastic Chinese background, I thought that the presence of this painting in the MoCA Envisage exhibition must definitely contain hidden meaning that yearns to be debunked. Feeling adventurous, I looked for the title and author of this painting and found the answer (as mentioned above), though initially to my astonishment. The focal point of the artwork lies in center of the picture with the three distinctive illustrations—the man with the face of a tiger standing on the left, the table with nothing on it, and the man with a normal face standing on the right. The peculiar representation of the two main characters at the center of the painting is pivotal to the accentuation of the piece’s understanding and underlying cultural representation. In modern society, economy is based on reciprocal relationships of mutual agreement and benefit. However, Cervera depicts one of the characters as a man with the face of a tiger whereas the other individual is portrayed as a normal human. This portrayal of the two characters creates a sense of imbalance and challenges the foundation of Western economic interaction. Through the tiger-headed character, the artist illustrates to the audience primal dominance in the context of humanity: an instinctive and beastly aggression, the tiger-head ravenously advances on his prey.

Although the two main characters are the focus of the painting, without the crucial presence of the table at the center, the painting would not as deeply and distinctively emphasize the cultural significance of Chinese business relations. In the painting, the table lies in the exact center of the entire painting, its shape distinctively square. The imagery of this table symbolizes the equality and balance of an economic relationship, which contrasts more sharply with the predator and his victim. It shows to the audience that even though the two parties to the business deal compliment each other in an atmosphere of equality, in Chinese business culture, survival of the fittest dictates and characterizes Chinese business relations. The table also accentuates the lack of a transparent and definitive legal system in Chinese relationships. In Western society, the presence of legal institutions and illustrations and the conduct of relationships in a formal surrounding are the milestone for successful interaction and development; however, as seen in the painting, the table is bare and empty. This lack of legal presence highlights the continuing chaos in Chinese society and its lack of an institutionalized and transparent legal system, especially in its business interactions.

The setting and outfits of these pivotal characters symbolic of Chinese business lies also plays a peculiar role in accentuating Chinese entrepreneurial relationships. As this is an artwork describing the cunning and primal actions of Chinese business relationships, the setting does not have to be archaic and neither does the clothing of the characters. However, by illustrating a background and outfits that parallel ancient Chinese attire and architecture, the artist portrays the extended chronology of the competitive and brutal Chinese business relationship as a tradition deeply embedded in Chinese culture that retains through modernity and progress—through the age of a developing Chinese legal institution and emergence of a global market system.

As China progresses and gradually synchronizes with the Western world—enjoying Western consumerism, accepting Western pop culture, and appreciating Western aesthetic perception—there remain traditions rooted deeply in the Chinese culture and individual psyche that will not fade from the increasingly modernized nation and culture. But through rigorous efforts and a demanding community, Chinese have the possibility and hope of evolving beyond primal instincts and selfish desires and progress towards a true civilization.

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