Leading cultural thinkers from East and West announced as Artistic Directors of inaugural Shanghai Project.

Entitled “2116” and themed “Sustainable Future”, the Shanghai Project 2016 will see Yongwoo Lee and Hans-Ulrich Obrist as Co-Artistic Directors. The large-scale event will take over various venues across Shanghai in Autumn 2016, with content across the fields of arts, humanities and sciences.

The Shanghai Project. Image courtesy the Shanghai Project.

The Shanghai Project 2016. Designed by Project Projects. Image courtesy the Shanghai Project.

On 25 March 2016, the Shanghai Project |上海种子 announced Shanghai Himalayas Museum Director Yongwoo Lee and Co-Director of London’s Serpentine Galleries Hans-Ulrich Obrist as Co-Artistic Directors of its inaugural edition, taking place from 5 September to 13 November 2016.

The first Shanghai Project, entitled “2116”, looks ahead at the future in the 22nd century and tackles the theme of “sustainable future”, questioning its prospects by considering the present human progress, its interaction with the environment and the possible utopias for the next century.

Shanghai Project Artistic Directors             

In an era of greater exchanges and cross-pollination across fields between East and West, the decision of appointing two internationally relevant cultural thinkers from both sides of the globe as collaborators is timely.

Dr Yongwoo Lee. Image courtesy the Shanghai Project.

Dr Yongwoo Lee. Image courtesy the Shanghai Project.

Yongwoo Lee, Executive Director of the Project’s main venue – the Shanghai Himalayas Museum – is also President of IBA (International Biennial Association). He was the founding director of the Gwangju Biennale in 1995 and the president and general director of the Gwangju Biennale Foundation from 2008 to 2014. An Oxford PhD of Art History, Lee was a professor of aesthetics and critical theory at Korea University, and has taught at several other institutions in the United States and Europe. Among his numerous publications is Information and Reality. Nam June Paik and The Origins of Video Art. Lee has dedicated himself to presenting the ‘aesthetics of difference’, curating and re-examining exhibitions on the discourse of visual culture as social practice.

The Shanghai Project 2016. Image courtesy the Shanghai Project.

The Shanghai Project 2016. Designed by Project Projects. Image courtesy the Shanghai Project.

The Project questions the possibilities of a “sustainable future” in the 22nd century and defines itself as

an ideas platform which takes as its starting point the notion of a culture and knowledge “emporium,” a shared time and space for people to gather, procure, and exchange culture and knowledge.

The platform – or “emporium” – will form the basis for cross-cultural interventions, exhibitions, public art installations, commissioned architectural structures, public programmes and an open call taking place at the Shanghai Himalayas Museum and various venues across Shanghai. The “researchers” will contribute by questioning and experimenting with the historic notion of a trading post and the utopian proposal of department stores as the “one-stop-shop” containing “something for everyone”. “Root researchers” will build interdisciplinary teams of eight to ten participants, to create opportunities for spontaneous meeting and exchange, allowing for unique moments of engagement and innovation.

It is predicted that in a century, if global warming is not put under control, 76 percent of Shanghai’s current population will live in areas submerged by water. It is also foreseen that at the current migratory levels, 70 percent of China’s population will live in cities. These trends might be slowed down by careful policing and creating ways of keeping human life and its progress sustainable. Shanghai Project proposes to look at the future and suggest ways of tackling these issues, through interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary projects involving scientists, futurists and science fiction novelists, but also by artists, filmmakers, performers, musicians, designers, architects, writers, poets, philosophers, historians, economists, geographers, sociologists, anthropologists, journalists, doctors, lawyers, engineers, hackers, bloggers, activists and the people of Shanghai.

The Shanghai Project 2016. Image courtesy the Shanghai Project.

The Shanghai Project 2016. Designed by Project Projects. Image courtesy the Shanghai Project.

As an independent module of the Shanghai Project, Qidian 奇点 is dedicated to the discovery of young thinkers, doers and makers across China, providing a platform for networking and sharing ideas with a wider international audience. It is funded as a collaboration with 89plus, a long-term international research project co-founded by Hans-Ulrich Obrist and Simon Castets that investigates the generation of innovators born in or after 1989, to bring together creative individuals of China’s jiulinghou (post-90s) generation through a nationwide open call.

Shanghai Project explains about “2116”:

As if the title of a science fiction novel, “2116” is an arbitrary placeholder, a substitute numeral for a time and place in the fantastically distant future, a vehicle through which we are free to experiment. Yet, the 22nd century is close enough that the future can be measured and predicted, conditioned by what we know and what exists today. The Shanghai Project invites researchers to speculate on this both distant and proximate future and the many valences of sustainability.

C. A. Xuan Mai Ardia


Related Topics: Curatorial practice, directorsconference, forums, lecture and talksnews, environment, globalisation, city, events in Shanghai

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By Brittney

Brittney is a writer, curator and contemporary art gallerist. Born in Singapore and based in New York City, Brittney maintains a deep interest in the contemporary art landscape of Southeast Asia. This is combined with an equally strong interest in contemporary art from the Asian diasporas, alongside the issues of identity, transmigration and global relations.

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