Feb 22, 2017

The "Chinese" Exhibition-故事新編

A lot of things make me dizzy, like staring at moving train (I have never got carsick or anything, I just can't look at moving trains), like watching a long hand-held shot (typical examples, the beginning of The Diving Bell and Butterfly and the whole Birdman) and walking in Guggenheim. It is not that I am unhappy with the interior design of this museum. The layout is very unique. It is just my body and my brain is not happy with this museum. 

Anyway, I was there for the Chinese exhibition, which I wanted to go for a long time. Because I went to the exhibition in Whitney just several weeks ago, which was so great and I kind of had a very high expectation for this one. 

My first reaction is that the exhibition space is so small, although the exhibition takes the parts of two "floors". Guggenheim is not like any regular museums which have the whole flat floors. A lot of space in the museum is compromised for this circled up layout. Like I said in my previous blog, the moving image pieces need a lot of space and especially private space.  Another thing that bothering me is that this exhibition does not have a designated route. There are two entrances for the part on fourth floor and multiple exits. One entrance on the part of fifth floor, except the fact that the giant robot basically takes up all the space on fifth floor.  I suddenly feels that $18 admission fee is really not worth it, at least MoMA is free for NYU students. Back to the designated route, I kind of followed the "original" route for this exhibition. I came in through the entrance that had the wall text of whole description for this exhibition, and the first giant piece, Sun Xun's Mythological Time. I think this piece, being the true representation of the mainland China today, is the only one in this exhibition that is worth look at. 


To put together an exhibition about modern China, the curators first need to answer one question: What is China? In this exhibition, I see many ideologies contradict. I see the piece about the modern history mainland China, which is Sun Xun's Mythological Time. I see the artist Chia-en Jiao's pieces, which clearly represent modern Taiwan. The tea tasting part by Yangjiang Group follows the Cantonese and HK traditions. The artist Tsang Kin-Wah, obviously Cantonese, moved to HK and then UK. Zhou Tao, born and raised in China, got BFA in Canton and has an international background. Sun Yuan and Peng Yu, and artists making that giant robot, are both from Northeastern part of mainland China. (The material of the robot, the movement all show that background of the artists. I can tell they are from northern and northeastern part without even looking at their bios.)

As a person born and raised in mainland, Sun Xun's Mythological Time is the best representation of modern China. The others are all somehow weird. 

Another thing that needs to be mentioned is that the reason why I had such a high expectation for this exhibition was because the title--"Tales of Our Time". This is a book title which is a collection of prose published in 1936 by Lu Xun, the famous Chinese writer. The book contains a  series of short stories that are rewrites of several Chinese traditional mythological stories. That is why I adore Sun Xun's piece. It combines the traditional Chinese art forms with new technology, and modern Chinese history. 

From my initial and preliminary research, I find out the curators are a group of people all with the mixed background, just like those artists. The foundation who organizes this exhibition is based in HK.   

I think whether it is someone from HK, Canton/Chinese American, Taiwanese, or people from mainland China going to this exhibition, their reaction would all be: This is not the China I understand. And a person from any western countries like US, UK walking into this exhibition, they will react like: Wow, this is China. 

Just I can tell how the Met Gala of 2015 China: Through the Looking Glass would be like that. So weird and so wrong. 

I will expand this for my mid-term. 

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