An exhibition of Chinese art features works that speak to the changing times of contemporary China.
At the heart of the concept of “Bentu” lies the notion that cultural practitioners in China today are conducting a process of critical discovery of their identity, through a reconciliation of the local and the global.
Highlights of “Bentu” artists
The artists engage with a plethora of diverse notions, from the economic and ecologic landscape of China witnessed trough the transformations taking place in cities and the countryside, as well as identity in an increasingly globalised society.
The Louis Vuitton Foundation writes in the press release:
The choice of works does not seek to show a panorama of the artistic scene in China, but aims to draw attention to the multiform character of the cultural production in the country, which undergoes rapid development and which affirms itself through outstanding individuals, rather than specific movements.
Liu Shiyuan’s From Happiness to Whatever (2015) is an installation of a room covered from floor to ceiling with a patchwork of carpet squares of various colours and patterns. The radio station From Happiness to Whatever plays on an 18:38 minutes loop, consisting of one main host and four segments that deal with concepts of happiness, success and human perfection.
The four segments have been recorded using sentences from a variety of sources patched together to create a purer language of success, happiness and perfection. The sentences, liberated from their original context and purpose, are borrowed from commercials, infomercials, political speeches, or self-help instruction programmes. The main question explored by Liu in this work is whether personal success and happiness, effectively has come to constitute the sacrifice of the self, for human or extra-human perfection.
Tao Hui’s 1 Character & 7 Materials offers an immersive experience of China’s disappearing ‘past’ through the tale of a young village woman. Viewers listen to the exhausted narrator retell her life’s story. Fleeing her small village for the city, the young woman, in spite of her tenacity, gradually grows nostalgic. A torrid love affair with her music student results in one child and a failed marriage. Unable to bear the consequences, she ends her life on the banks of a river. Disparate and outlandish narrative scenes include a group of ethnic minorities standing in a grave during a storm, a corpse interviewer, and an immortal riding a yacht at the center of a river.
Yang Fudong’s Blue Kylin – A Journal of Shandong (2008) presents a visual record of rocks being blown up in the mountains, workers carving statues out of stones, and scenes from daily life in the city where the quarry is located. The subtle black-and-white video documents everyday life of quarry workers, and the environmental impact of ore extraction.
Xu Qu’s Currency Wars series of paintings are displayed on movable stands, enhancing the notion of currency circulation. Xu created the colourful abstract paintings using different watermarks of banknotes from across the world, making them both cultural and financial vehicles and reflecting on how artworks often becomes a commodity itself.
The artist references a monetary system that is out of control and questions the idea of power in our contemporary world. The artist brings to the fore the power plays between the various economies of the world and the emerging countries’ new value challenging the long undisputed balance.
Xu Zhen’s Physique of Consciousness is a “cultural fitness exercise”, which brings together diverse human movements from very different contexts. In the artist’s words,
It combines physical and spiritual virtues, enhancing body conditions and well-being, and further extends researches on world physical and spiritual practices.[…]. Researches and analysis of each posture and movement (more than a hundred) and their origins, and signification, have been pursued since 2011.
The video includes movements derived from dance, gymnastics, spiritual and cultural rituals. The whole series is composed of more than two hundreds steps and moves inspired from a hundred ceremonies, worships and traditions accumulated through the history of bumanity.
C. A. Xuan Mai Ardia
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