Wednesday, October 13, 2010

M50 “Useful Life”

Nina Boys
Contemporary Art and New Media in China
M50 “Useful Life”

The exhibition “Useful Life 2010” featured in the artsy area “M50” in Shanghai featured the three prominent Chinese artists; Yang Fudong, Yang Zhenzhong and Xu Chen. It was a reprisal of an exhibition that went by the same name ten years ago featuring the same artists. While I had not had the opportunity to visit “Useful Life” in 2000, I could still sense the diversity of inspiration among the different works, and in a sense, the evolutionary thread that tied the exhibition together. From hyper-realistic portraits of various citizens by Zhenzhong entitled “Extras” to Fudong’s multi-perspective black and white feature called “Fifth Night” to Zhen’s “Spread”; a rainbow printed forest that stood majestically in the center of the room, the very title “Useful Life” both referencing and satirizing the artist’s life, career and spectrum of work. Upon doing further reading on the artists’ take on the exhibition it is interesting to note that while ten years have passed, and certainly with that time came changes in technique, inspiration and material, all of them reflect on the fact that that which should not have changed, hasn’t. The artist’s core identity is still reflected in the way in which he perceives the world around him. While this is not necessarily a quantifiable change, I can imagine that the exhibition that premiered a decade ago would reflect what I saw in the present-day, with the changes more in the artist’s style and the fundamental changes that have occurred in our world over the past decade, with the artists’ core character still shining through strong as ever.

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