Thursday, November 25, 2010

by Shane Li

I went to Shanghai Biennale 2008 and it was not interesting to me at
all, whereas Shanghai Biennale 2010 is way better than 2008 in terms
of the sheer number and quality of art works presented. Part of the
reason why I think 2010 is better than 2008 is that I am taking
"Contemporary art and new media in China", which gives me a lot of
insights into the life and thinking of contemporary artists and allows
me to appreciate an art work from an amateur's perspective.

The themes for the two biennales have very different implication. The
theme of Shanghai Biennale 2008 is Trans Local Motion, which is a
reflection on the city, urbanization and people's living status in the
city (they probably chose this theme in accordance to Shanghai Expo).
The theme for 2010 is Rehearsal, which emphasizes more on the pure
arty essence of art, as well as the experimental and open nature of
Shanghai Biennale. In 2008 artists were compelled to do something
related to urban life, whereas in 2010 more artists present their
works in more fields. Wu Shanzhuan's installation "d=mr2"
interestingly combined mathematics and arts to express the
unpredictable character of life. MadeIn Company's installation "Must
Act" is a series of works addressing the same subject –politics, wars
and peace. In one piece of painting, the face of Marx is hidden in the
cloud of the Windows XP desktop.( See picture)  Another piece has a
cake-like military castle.

Unlike art works in 2008 which were highly abstract, some realism
works were presented in 2010's show. Liu Xiaodong's gorgeous oil
painting "Entering Tai Lake; Getting out of Bei Chuan" strikes me very
much with their realistic style. "Maleonn's studio" is also
interesting because the artist actually moved his studio into the
museum so that the audience can have a close look at the real
environment in which art works are produced.

Art works that perfectly combine the past and the future is always my
favorite, and Qiu Zhijie's "Qiu's Notes on 'Colorful Lantern at
Shangyuan Festival'" surpasses my expectation. "Colorful Lantern at
Shangyuan Festival" is a very famous traditional Chinese painting. Qiu
took the form of this painting to present various business,
occupations and machines, some of which are purely imaginary but very
interesting. The materials and techniques used in the wall painting
and installations are all very "traditional" and very "Chinese", for
example, black ink and wood.

The last thing I want to address is that I am glad to see more and
more Shanghai citizens and tourists are interested in going to art
museum. I think that artists' prior target when producing art is to
make it relevant and understandable to average spectators. Shanghai
Biennale 2010 also did a good job in presenting art to the society.

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