Wednesday, December 03, 2008
Currently on display at m97 Gallery Shanghai is Exquisite Corpse: China Surreal, a group exhibition of photographic works. The show is co-curated by Mathieu Borysevicz, who has made a career as Zhang Huan's videographer. He also occasionally contributes to art publications. The title of the show is derived from the classic game of the same name in which words or images from different individuals are randomly strung together in order to create a singular work of collective subconscious.
The goal of the exhibition is to present photographs from both established as well as emerging artist who are exploring the current state of surreality in modern China. Many have proclaimed the the current conditions of culture, tradition, the body, and the imagination have been disrupted to a point of absurdity. The images are displayed so that each work is linked to the next my thematic or conceptual themes ultimately culminating in a disturbing and mesmerizing look at China's present reality through the eyes of twenty artists.
In the west, Surrealism once offered a cultural respite in an age deprived of representational range, providing a kind of pyschological retreat. Through metaphoricity, familiar strangeness, illusion, and the erotic, surrealists simultaneously accepted and challenged what was there. Surrealism was not simply an artistic avant-garde but a subterranean movement of modern culture that sought to express pure psychic automatism, by any means necessary, regardless of moral or aesthetic preoccupations. Its ultimate goal was to reach an absolute point of reconciliation between dream and reality.
Now is more than ever and appropriate time for Chinese artists to confront and challenge every kind of experience and actuality. The difficulty lies in the ability to communicate and visualize such confounding issues of this manner. Tenets linked with surrealism maintain the capacity for ontological, or representational depth, in a Modernist age dominated by instrumentality. The consensus of many is that the content of the artworks is too rarely discussed. Chinese artists are beginning to break away from this paradigm to find their own voice and true means of expression. The art scene is Shanghai is very young and still percolating, but there is tremendous potential. The sources of inspiration and the issues that Chinese artists are facing are poignant and among the most difficult to articulate. Though the works in this exhibition appear to be heavily influenced by western art aesthetics, the show does represent a new direction for contemporary Chinese art, and if it continues and evolves, will come as a welcome relief.