Art of Change: New Directions from China (7 September–9 December 2012) features contemporary installation and performance art from China produced over the past three decades. It brings together works by nine of the country’s most innovative artists and artist groups from the 1980s to today—Chen Zhen (b.1955–d.2000), Yingmei Duan (b.1969), Gu Dexin (b.1962), MadeIn Company (est. 2009),Liang Shaoji (b.1945), Sun Yuan (b.1972) & Peng Yu (b.1974), Wang Jianwei (b.1954) and Xu Zhen(b.1977). Comprising 40 works, the exhibition shows significant early examples of the artists’ work, alongside recent pieces and new commissions.
Until the year 2000, neither installation nor performance art was recognised officially within China, and in some instances they were banned outright. Official rejection encouraged a spirit of dissent, risk-taking and independence from traditional media. And, as exhibitions in China frequently ran the risk of being closed down by the authorities, it often suited artists to create transitory and fleeting works that focused on the creative process rather than the finished product.
Art of Change: New Directions from China argues that this background has led artists to positively embrace transformation and transience as key themes informing both the content and form of contemporary Chinese installation and performance art. At the same time, this approach also reflects a renewed concern with traditional thinking: change, and the acceptance that everything is subject to change, is deeply rooted in Eastern philosophy. The exhibition focuses on works in which these themes are conveyed through action or materials.
Each artist in the exhibition presents works that alter their appearance over time or convey a powerful sense of volatility in some way—from sculptures glimpsed briefly as they fly into the air from a large room-sized white cube (MadeIn Company, Action of Consciousness, 2011) to evolving structures made by live silkworms (Liang Shaoji) to a person who appears to be magically suspended in mid-fall (Xu Zhen, In Just a Blink of an Eye, 2005/2012). Including artworks that feature performers and others that offer visitors an opportunity to perform, Art of Change explores ideas about metamorphosis that are ingeniously related to everyday life as well as to political and philosphical perspectives.
Art of Change: New Directions from China
7 September–9 December 2012
Hayward Gallery, Southbank Centre
Belvedere Road, London SE1 8XZ
*Banner image: Xu Zhen, “In Just a Blink of an Eye,” 2005