The future will be…China

I’m still catching up on blog posts, events and happenings from the past couple of months. At some stage I’ll write more comprehensively about a recent trip to Shenzhen and Hong Kong where I reviewed the ‘7th Shenzhen Sculpture Biennale’ and attended ‘ART HK 12’, the Hong Kong International Art Fair. Until then, I’ll tell you about a few facets from that trip. I forgot how much I love (and miss) the subtropical climate and temperament of those two cities….very different to Shanghai in so many ways, but I’ll speak about that another time. So, as part of the build up to the Art Fair and as part of the VIP events programming, there was the launch of ‘The future will be…China. Thoughts on What’s to Come’, a new book curated by Hans Ulrich Obrist. Tickets were $490 HKD even to VIP card holders like me, but I thought it was worth attending as I’d not yet had the opportunity to meet Melissa Chiu from the Asia Society NYC, or Hans Ulrich Obrist, to introduce my PhD research. The exhibition series ‘China Power Station’ that he curated was, at one stage, a case study as part of Chapter 4 of my thesis, however due to the limited availability of critical information as regards the projects first exhibition ‘China Power Station: Part One’, and the difficulty in accessing associated people, such as Obrist, it was replaced by the 1993 Venice Biennale when Chinese art was included for the first time. Other panel members included Philip Tinari, who I have met with on many occasions regarding my research, and artist Wang Jianwei.

Anyway, when I arrived at ‘The future will be…China‘ event, at the beautiful new Asia Society Hong Kong premises at The Hong Kong Jockey Club Former Explosives Magazine on Justice Drive (you can see images of it below), I assumed it was just going to be a panel discussion when in fact it ended up being a three course formal sit down dinner, as you can see. Completely unexpected, which slightly unnerved me but I took a seat at an empty table and let the lunch unfold. I ended up on a table with New York artist Jeffrey Bishop and his wife, and also next to other arts journalists, and opposite Patrick Regan, Modern and Contemporary art, Asian specialist for artnet. The strangest thing was he said he knew me from Twitter…and actually throughout my art fair visit I had 12 people come up to me and randomly (and slightly disconcertingly) say hello as if they had known me all my life, then say they knew me from Twitter. Good right? Or is it? Questionable and it made me a little paranoid for the rest of the day. Just for reference…the lunch was ok…I didn’t eat the salad due to the meat shavings and the dressing, the salmon was pretty standard and the tiramisu was partially frozen. They did kindly bring me cups and cups of peppermint tea throughout the event. I always have to mention the food.

In this new book, or curatorial happening, Obrist asks about the future of art, where his answer is we have to listen to the artists, whilst questioning the role of the artist’s book as a curatorial platform. He has expanded this narrative since 2005 to designers, writers, architects, poets, photographers, actors and other creatives in order to complete the sentence ‘The future will be…’. The China edition is the first in a series of publications, this time focusing on protagonists working in China, looking at futuristic imaginings of the complex, multifaceted society. Thoughts from the panel discussion included….’the book is an exhibition space (a house/space/in multiples), it can go everywhere…it focuses on China and the future in contemporary Chinese and non-Chinese…what this means from a Chinese perspective…the “future is chrome”. The book is polyphonic as an outcome, more polyphonic than the stereotypes…It has a “complex rhythm of production”…a contained activity within a specific group…when we look to the future it does not exist…we are trying to create a future by hoping for some things we do not have….It looks into a special concept of time and history making reference to Karl Marx that comes from Christianity – life after this life. Sense of a 5000 year cultural history and inheritance…is there no respect for time? We erase previous histories of the past…Everything is in a hurry here in China where there are two concepts of time in conflict. “History is the same as truth”…only a kind of knowledge of the past and future can become wealth. “Unrealised projects”…theories that cannot be realised or connected to reality and no one will know why…how do we tolerate this? Knowledge has to somehow be effective in China.’

The three key thematics I noticed from the conversations were “future”…”time”…”memory”, and the necessity to document the development of contemporary Chinese art from global perspectives…to implement and form infrastructures through which to disseminate the real feeling from with contemporary Chinese art practice to global audiences. Through my time in Shanghai, I have always felt that from a Chinese perspective there is a sense of fear of the future that works in dualism with a sense of hope…always in struggle or battle…the unknown.

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