Carol Yinghua Lu and Liu Ding…

…another ‘In Conversation’ event, this time at the Chinese Arts Centre, Manchester, on one very rainy Wednesday afternoon. Here Carol Yinghua Lu spoke about a series of projects including ‘Liu Ding’s Conversations’ and ‘Little Movements’. Here are my notes from the afternoon. I also got the chance to speak one-on-one with Carol Lu after the event. I’ll post those additional thoughts another time.

In ‘Liu Ding’s Conversations’, the artist Liu decides who his partners are and the issues examined. They take place in an exhibition setting or where private conversations can take place. When and where they will talk is decided by the two parties in conversation. There is no audience allowing the dialogue to be open and specific, more relaxed. Conversations come from their own experiences of working in the art world. Their drive to produce has come from external commission or relationship. We begin to question as art practitioners where can we find our internal drive and motivation to make art. We also became interested in private conversations…didactic lectures to the wider audience, whereas between practitioners is does not happen on a deeper level. Carol Lu is a moderator of the conversations. She witnesses the thought-provoking process of these conversations. These parallel practices create internal motivations for practice, which leads onto the project ‘Little Movements – Self-practice in Contemporary Art’ – a series of small public round table discussions. It consists of…

Carol Lu then spoke of the many round table discussions including ‘Round table: what is an alternative space?’ on 29 December 2010 with Elaine W. Ho, Clara Kim, Su Wenxiang, Su Wei, Teng Yuning, Zhu Jia. An institution should not be defined by the nature of the space but the nature of the programme…from alternative spaces to the state of independence in the art system. It is the practice of artists, curators, institutional, publishing. The publication is to be structured in four sections…critical essays…a combination of an exhibition catalogue and critical essays.

‘Chapter 1 – Anxiety of Self-definition’

Looks at ways of defining ourselves, when I say ourselves I mean in the Eastern context in Europe and America…I find geographic definitions problematic. E-flux…the Eastern contemporaniety. Hans Belting (2007), was to engage with global art today…‘Global Art and the Museum’. In a recent Artforum they questioned what the museum is today? A new form of institutional critique…no longer to criticism from oppositional point of view but rather from internal and being involved, what directions a museum can take. MoCA Shanghai (2010) examined contemporaniety in Indonesian contemporary art…contemporaniety as a definition of Indonesian art on a global level. Both practitioners in european and western contexts, and in eastern contexts, express a desire to express who we are today in global parameters. Art practices today should be looked at today from a global context…it should come from regions. The Chinese art market as an outstanding example of influence and changing the narrative of art history today. ‘The Global Art World’ edited by Andrea Buddensieg and Hans Belting. Art market is a key element, and institutional support of the government, the regional government.

Lu then goes on to cite examples of this such as ‘Concept Store’ journal by Arnolfini, Bristol…not just an exhibition catalogue…produces a platform through which to develop dialogues with thinkers, artists etc…continue discussion around issues raised…’Far West’ exhibition beginning point…changing of the economic structure between East and West…the changing structure in the art world…artists who work with economic structures, the museum as a place for experience…experience economy…audience can buy and exchange through a specific monetary exchange. More independent autonomous platform for discussion…otherwise where can we talk about the independence and autonomy of art?

Han Dong, Xiaohai – Writers.’The Uncanny Exhibition and Its Reincarnations’ exhibition by Mike Kelly as an interesting curatorial model.

‘Black Cover Book, White Cover Book, Grey Book Cover’ by Ai Weiwei. Started in 1997 when he first returned to China from America…dealing with anxiety and curiosity about the outside world, why these artists encounter these situations they are not interested in themselves. Ai invited them to write proposals and what they were thinking. It gave them the opportunity to make sketches and proposals without an exhibition invitation…an urge for the local artists to examine themselves, their practice, thinking and environment.

‘Chapter 2 – Individual Systems’

Practitioners. ‘Homeshop and Wear’ – living and workshop for artist Elaine Ho in Beijing. The front of the living space is used as a project space…based on very limited conditions, not just to create community projects, but the publication ‘Wear’…bringing together theoretical interests and discussions from ‘Homeshop’ or inspired her practice.

Continue to develop community based community projects. We challenged her doubts of the quality of the projects themselves, even though it is a developed individual system, the quality is very key issue.

‘Caochangdi Workstation’ – communal way of living…creatives live together eat together and organise events and art happenings. A utopian model of living working…mutual education amongst these young practitioners…important roles are designated to people within the work station, they can then contribute to the shaping of the institution, no hierarchy, a flat structure. They produce documentaries, theatre, modern dance, filmmakers…villagers became interested in their work and take part.

‘Borges Institute for Contemporary Art’ in Guangzhou. It is really a one man show…not the difficulty or challenge of running an institution on your own, run from own funding. An interest in contemporary art embedded in French Literature completely defined by his own interest and encounters. This autonomy of an artist run space can give a lot of positive effect to the project itself…no sacrifices from external conditions such as funding, offending the public, other partners…however he has a lot of possibility to engage with other artists.

‘Chapter 3 – Away from the crowd and expected encounters’

Interacting with the art system by providing different models of expression. ‘The Second World Congress of Free Artists’ – professionalisation of artists, reiterate artists as a free agent rather than conditioned by institutional terms and structures.

‘Small Productions’ – sustainability is not necessarily a key or definite quality of practice, it can exist in a certain period of time, with a certain intensity and quality. A group from China Academy of Art (CAA) in Hangzhou…limited by galleries, the budget, art fair…who am I making work for? Important to think they are making work for themselves rather than the external demands and condition of external limitations. They identify random spaces in Hangzhou…warehouse, market, unused studio, and organise events. They get together in the name of something else, NOT art…acupunture, a BBQ. They ask artist friends to bring along a piece of unfinished work. The purpose is not so much as presentation of the work but the discussion itself…the opportunity to talk about art without infrastructure support. It often became repetitive rather than an autonomous process…trying to overcome it through new formats and initiatives…Zhang Liaoyuan, Shao Yi, Li Fuchan, Li Ming.

Copenhagen Free University’ organised by two artists in their apartment in Copenhagen. It questioned the status of authority we assign to universities, they want to create a free network and framework for people to come and share knowledge and information. The generation of education should not be through a hierarchy but through a process of interacting with practitioners…interacting in education…create a status of their own. They requested letters for them to issue certificates…that is the time when they thought they should end the university.

‘Company’ a young artists collective all over China. Most interaction is through the internet. Each take on the role of project manager at one time. They are free to experiment, they have a certain freedom to work outside their own line of development. They found themselves unable to answer what company actually is…they are not an artists group who create work collaboratively…autonomous space…not a physical but a mental space to experiment with ideas. ‘Company’ has no principles or precise categorisation. They each take it in turns to work under the premise of company. ‘The Shape of Company’…the members of company are constantly thinking “what is company?”

‘Once is nothing’ from Venice Biennale in 2003 and ‘poli-sheer-form’…5000 blank books, is it enough just to be together as practitioners…nothing more needs to be said.

‘Chapter 4 – What is knowledge?’

Knowledge production…communicating and sharing information.

’51 square metres’…sub-education through working and being together by referencing each others work.

‘Unitednationsplaza’ – 1 year-long project in Berlin. Artists, scholars etc were invited to do seminars, which went on for months not just a few hours…its a free school in a way…

‘Shuangbai Studio’ – the system of education and the academy structure in Shanghai…challenging the limits of the academy, he is surviving the system with his students, the last two years he still occupied a central space, positioned himself, students are invited to speak to him.

‘Zhang Peili’s New Media Art Teaching Practice’ at China Academy of Art (CAA) in Hangzhou…state owned and very rigid and formulaic and simplistic way of teaching and educating artists. He waited to present a freer model. It has a certain ideology that students should be encouraged to think…recently been cancelled by the academy, therefore he has lost his war for freer teaching within the academy.

‘Zhuhai Slideshow ’86’


Q: New groups are following some of the similar patterns of the artists from the 1980s…are they just an extended genealogy of contemporary Chinese art since the 1980s?

CYL: We try to generalise the conditions then…they got together then from a more strategic point of view to have a voice and the courage to practice together, whereas now there a lot possibilities to be seen in galleries and exhibitions, but the artists find it necessary and important to be together, the collective practices come from an internal desire to talk about and come together to discuss art. Some art is responding to the pressure after the boom…dominated by commercial art…value of art dominated by the art market…they haven’t had much exposure to a more diverse system of values, many of them have tried to create models of values…creating new references for themselves.

The exhibition for ‘Little Moments’ opens at OCAT Shenzhen, Sept 10 – Nov 10, 2011.

“There is a certain power in just thinking rather than making…the most important thing is the continuous self questioning.” – Carol Lu

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