1. In "40+4", Li Lei defines the role of critics to be translating the
ideas of artists for the audiences because the audiences cannot
interpret the art by themselves. Gong Yan remarks that critics often
view Chinese art in the context of the international art environment,
which causes their critique of Chinese art to be influenced by
stereotypes and subjective standards. Critics may facilitate the
interactions between producers and consumers of art, but their
critique of an artwork may not reflect the artist's intent. Do you
think critics play a necessary role in raising the general public's
interest towards art and in facilitating dialogue between artists and
the general public?
In the best of the scenarios possible, indeed art critics should be
the key people who can be in between the artist's work and the public
(as not only "people watching the art" but also the ensemble of
"media" that create the basis for knowledge distribution). In fact the
art system is not as pure as ideologists may think, and artists are
not as pure as maybe they should be. In this sense, the relationship
between artists and critics reflect this fact: playing the politics of
power. So if an influential art critic writes about artists in a
certain way, that artist will be "recognized" as valuable, not only in
terms of artistic content, but also at the economic level.
In my opinion though the place of art critics still have a very
important role and should be stimulated: it is the place for
development of new ideas derived by the artists' work, it is the place
to bring the artistic action into the verbal world of communication.
2. During her interview, Gong Yan mentions her concern that Shanghai
has lost its former glorious cultural scene, and is now simply a
cultural pier, witnessing the coming and going of artistic and
cultural phenomena. How you think that artists in Shanghai might be
trying to retrieve Shanghai's former glory? Do you think that many
artists see the Shanghai art scene's increasing international
recognition and expanding art market as helping revive the city's
former thriving cultural scene?
I think that most of the local artists do not think about the
responsibility of making Shanghai anything more than a place to work
and act. Maybe more political artists like Li Lei can say something
about this...but most of their answers on the topic is that they do
not feel responsibility. Anyhow, if any, I found the older generation
especially (Hu Jieming, Shen Fan, Ding Yi etc.) very much connected
via the school system to the next generation. I am working with them
as we speak on a project in Fudan University where I teach, and their
commitment is amazing!
3. It seems undeniable that while many artists chose art because of
their passion for it, they must also see art as a means to earn a
livelihood. Under the pressure of growing international recognition
and media attention, it seems that Chinese contemporary art faces the
risk of becoming increasingly commodified. How do you think most
Shanghai artists are dealing with the influences of the global art
market and the pressure of appealing to the Western art world?
Like they did centuries ago exporting white and blue porcelain for the
West :). Artists of course need an economy, they need to survive and
there is nothing bad about it. The globalized speculation a few years
ago created a weird phenomenon for a couple of years. After the shock,
I see only very strong and valuable artists keeping producing good
work...the over commercialization of Chinese art had a good beneficial
result at the end of the day.
4. In the video, Lu Chunsheng mentions that art has no influence on
ordinary audiences. Do you think that this is especially true in
China, where it seems that many ordinary people are not interested or
even aware of the Chinese contemporary art scene?
What is the contemporary art scene? Does traditional contemporary art
have a position in this? Contemporary art is often a phenomenon for
the few, also in the international contexts. Of course, China is not
so accustomed to the contemporary art in the way we, as Europeans or
Americans, read that. But it is changing exponentially; look at the
Shanghai Biennale and how many young people went to watch it. It is a
sign of a big change.
5. Have you witnessed any major changes in the subject matter of
contemporary art in Shanghai within the past decade? Do you think
there has been a shift from the critique of politics to that of
emerging economic, social, and environmental issues in Chinese
contemporary art? Do you think that Chinese contemporary art's
critique of present issues in China currently plays an important role
in influencing how local and global audiences approach these issues?
I do not see much of the political critic around anymore. It seems to
me more of a manner if any still exist. Few artists of the young
generation I am working with at the moment seem to be exploring
possible sophisticated ways of social critique, but still a bit too
early to say...