Shape of what's to come at Chinese Pavilion

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 21 June, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 21 June, 2009, 12:00am

Lu Hao and Zhao Li, curators of the Chinese Pavilion at this year's Venice Biennale, liken their exhibition to 'a straw [that] shows which way the wind blows'.

'We have to reflect the clueless new direction contemporary Chinese art is taking through the minute details of the artworks to be exhibited,' says the English curatorial statement of What is to Come (or Jian Wei Zhi Zhu), the mainland's third official outing in the international art festival.

'Clueless' is, perhaps, a poor translation - the Chinese version of the statement reads 'changing and unknown' - as Lu and Zhao have put much thought into selecting a new generation of 'post-2000' artists who they hope will shed some light on where contemporary Chinese art is heading in the coming years.

Showing alongside them are artists with more international exposure such as Fang Lijun, Zeng Fanzhi and He Sen, who have also been experimenting and altering their style in the past decade or so to reflect the changing face of the mainland.

But it is the works by 'emerging' artists - Qiu Zhijie, Liu Ding, Zeng Hao and He Jinwei - that breathe fresh air into the show.

Liu's Store - The Utopian Future of Art, Our Reality, a Container of Experience (above) questions what art is and its value today; can we put a price tag on every artistic creation and should we?

Qiu's Domino: The Small Knocking Down the Big is a satire of the spectacular collapse of the global financial market and capitalism that uses both installation and performance arts as media.

Zeng's 2009-6-7, which packs everyday objects into a plexiglass chest, is a social critique of urbanite's shrinking living space, while He's oil paintings Is the World Before Us True depict a confused population that is undergoing a rural-to-urban identity transformation.

While intellectually stimulating, their works break no new ground in terms of themes, techniques or aesthetics. There are also no surprises from the quarters of the veteran artists. The space, which houses old oil tanks in the Arsenale, is also ineffectively used, with Fang's 2009-3-23 placed out of sight.