Thursday, March 19, 2009

"Restriction" In A New Light

After visiting CAFA two weeks ago, I was taken aback by the number of students studying so many different disciplines on an incredibly vast and well-equipped campus. After last week's class on art in the 1980's, the tour of CAFA was put into perspective. The distance that art in China has come in such little time is amazing, even when only considering that the project to redesign and renovate CAFA took just over five years. Standing on the same campus ground as thousands of other students and looking at all the resources that the school had to offer them, it became hard to imagine what came before it. Any idea of censorship or restriction in contemporary China that I had was suddenly changed. The image of an oppressive and brutally restrictive China that I had imagined existed before and to some extent after 1979 didn't match up with what I was seeing taking place in front of me. After only a brief visit,  it seemed like students at CAFA were being provided with more materials and more opportunities to pursue what they study than NYU was providing to many of its students in New York.
When preparing for this week's presentation, we found an interview with Huang Zhuan, a prominent curator in China. What was interesting was his comments on the censorship and restriction in China. He said that while China was opening up and allowing more artists to show their work in public, a new kind of restrictiveness was developing. As the Chinese art market progresses and grows (as seen in the rapid development of CAFA), the realization that contemporary Chinese art is a hot commodity has taken hold. According to Huang Zhang, this realization has made many Chinese artists think more about the market and the value of their work than the work itself. He calls this a kind of restriction, saying that the transition has been made from restriction from government to restriction from the market. More so, many Chinese artists have grabbed hold of international and western styles of art as a means of creating pieces that have high market value. He also remarks that this has caused Chinese contemporary art to become "bland." 
After touring CAFA I wonder, what will CAFA students do once they graduate? What are they working on and how does this compare to the students that came before them? 

No comments: