Art Radar interviews GuangDong Times Museum about why they chose Chinese contemporary artist Jiang Zhi for their first solo exhibition.
As the first artist given the chance to do a solo show in the GuangDong Times Museum, Jiang Zhi explores the difference between an artist and a non-artist. He brings work created by himself and other individuals, both real and imagined, to local audiences.
Artist or non-artist?
Jiang Zhi’s “If This Is a Man”, which ran at GuangDong Times Museum until 24 June 2012, responded to the influence and decisive power of the entire art system over artistic practices. The exhibition pointed out that nowadays a person almost always has to be engaged in the art system to be considered an artist. Furthermore, it posed the question, “Is the artist one man?”
The exhibition acted as an umbrella for three other shows that were running concurrently. Jiang Zhi took on the role of curator and exhibited an oil portrait show, “The Man with the Eye-White”, by a fellow artist from his hometown, a photography show, “Landscape of the Very Spirit”, and a fourth interactive exhibition, “Masks of Mu Mu”.
Masks of an imaginary character Jiang Zhi calls Mu Mu were available to the public at the museum’s reception desk. Each group of participants was able to spend three days with the object, during which time they were asked to construct their own story of Mu Mu using photography. After the three days, the masks were returned along with ten to fifteen photographs and an introductory text of less than 1000 words. A selection of six groups of works were on view within the Museum of Mu Mu during the final week of the exhibition (17 to 24 June 2012).
Curator Nikita Yingqian Cai on Jiang’s curatorial vision
Art Radar talks to Nikita Yingqian Cai, curator of “If This is a Man”, to learn more about the project, the organisation of the exhibitions and the relationship between them.
Why did GuangDong Times Museum choose to show work by Jiang Zhi for its first solo exhibition?
Jiang Zhi is a mid-career artist born in the 1970s who is very active and celebrated in China. His art works are […] mature and diverse. Though based in Beijing now, Jiang Zhi used to live and work in Shenzhen in his early career, so he is connected to the geographic culture of the Pearl River Delta where the Times Museum is located. Jiang Zhi’s works often have multiple meanings, which allow for multifaceted talks and experiments between curator and artist during the preparation of the exhibition. This intensive discussion helps the show stand out from the typical introspective mode of exhibition and become more of a dialogue.
According to the exhibition info on your website, there are four parallel exhibitions under the title “If This Is a Man”. What are they about?
Between the four exhibitions under the title of “If This Is a Man”, there is no linear relationship of subordination. “Museum of Mu Mu”, “Landscape of the Very Spirit” and “The Man with the Eye-White” are in the grey area between an artwork and an exhibition. They could be viewed as individual exhibitions curated by Jiang Zhi or as individual artworks by him.
Why did the artist (or the curators, the museum) decide to group these four exhibitions together? How does each exhibition support the others to convey the central message?
This exhibition explores the relationship of the so-called subject and object. In the traditional notion of artistic production, artists are the subjects, and all the artworks and collaborators are objects in the creation. However, we rethink this concept in this exhibition and try to blur the relationship between artwork and non-artwork, artist and non-artist, life and art to raise a concept of equal human relations. The association between these four parallel exhibitions is Jiang Zhi’s life and his creation process.
Did the artist, Jiang Zhi, create any new works for this exhibition?
Jiang Zhi curated a new exhibition, “The Man with the Eye-White”, and completed a novel Memoir of a Young Artist in Yuan Jiang.
Who were the finalists for the “Masks of Mu Mu” exhibition and what was the criteria for choosing them? Could you share these works with our readers?
There were mainly three criteria: subject of the work, style and uniqueness of creation and what the final work looks like. We have posted the finalists’ work on our website.
Why did the GuangDong Times Museum decide to publish a whole publication instead of just a catalogue of the exhibition?
The museum has not published any catalogues for self-curated exhibitions since its opening. The museum emphasises the importance of a publication as the extension of theory and a platform for discussion. A catalogue is more of a picture album, which may suit the needs of galleries but cannot meet the requirements of museums.
About Jiang Zhi
Jiang Zhi was born in 1971 in Yuanjiang City, Hunan Province in China, and graduated from China’s Central Academy of Fine Arts in 1995. Jiang was a student during the Chinese experimental art movement of the 1990s, a time when major political, economic and cultural changes were affecting China.
He uses multiple forms of media, including video, photography, painting, installation and writing, to reflect on various aspects of modern China’s turbulent society, from the estrangement of individual existence to the hectic pace of life.
Jiang Zhi won the Chinese Contemporary Art Award from the Chinese Contemporary Art Association in 2000, and recent exhibitions include “The Power of Doubt”, Photo España, Museo Colecciones ICO, Madrid, Spain (2011) and “Super-Organism”, CAFAM Biennial, Museum of the Central Academy of Fine Art, Beijing (2011).
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