Thursday, November 25, 2010

On Xu Tan and Gu Dexin

Joon Nam
On Xu Tan and Gu Dexin

Xu Tan, or the Big Tail Elephant Group, is an artist group from
Guangdong that mostly responds to the rapid urbanization of Guangzhou.
It was founded by Lin Yilin, Chen Shaoxiong, and Liang Juhui. Xu Tan,
Zheng Guogu, Zhang Haier, and Hou Hanru later joined the group, and
each of the members creates a distinct work of art to address the
issues of urbanization drawn from their experiences in Guangzhou. Some
of their noticeable piece of work includes Chen Shaoxiong's "City
View" in 1999, Liang Juhui's multimedia installation "City", and Lin
Yilin's Installation "Basic Content" in 2002.
I feel that their works reflect not only the issues of urbanization in
Guangzhou, but also of the whole China as well. Historically a
majority-rural, agricultural based nation, China is becoming rapidly
urbanized, expected to tip the 50% mark of population's urbanization
rate by 2015 according to the UN. Clearly, this is introducing new
value and issues that many parts of China have never experienced such
as redevelopment, consumerism, traffic, population and sexual freedom.
These issues have been addressed in the works by Xu Tan, which merits
not only their artistic values, but also their social values.

Gu Dexin is a Beijing born artist who has been active since the
mid-1980's. He soon gained recognition through his provoking pieces of
art such as portraits of colorful aliens. His interests in rotting
materials resulted in exhibitions of site-specific installations
around the world that are made up of decaying materials to reflect
passing of time. Most, if not all, of his works are titled with dates
in which he completed them.
I find Gu Dexin's works quite disgusting, yet catchy exactly because
of the materials that he used to create his works. He sounds like a
guy who does not really care for what others say about his work
(according to the interview he did with Artzine China), and perhaps
that's a part of what made him such an avant-garde artist.

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