Mainland artists make strong showing in Venice Biennale exhibition

Artists feature across Venice Biennale, focusing on cultural barriers, change and globalisation

PUBLISHED : Friday, 31 May, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 31 May, 2013, 6:11am

China has a strong presence at this year's Venice Biennale art festival, with several artists featured in the main exhibition, national pavilions and side events.

Three Chinese artists, Kan Xuan , Lin Xue , and Guo Fengyi , are among 150 artists from 38 countries featured in the main international exhibition, The Encyclopedic Palace, curated by Massimiliano Gioni. Dissident-artist Ai Weiwei has one massive installation, Bang, made of 886 antique stools, in the German pavilion.

"Transfiguration" is the theme of this year's China pavilion in the Arsenale. Curated by Wang Chunchen , head of the curatorial research department at the Central Academy of Fine Arts' museum in Beijing, it features works by seven artists in various mediums. Wang said that while they were in conversation he hoped to show the world the development of Chinese contemporary art under accelerating modernisation.

"Chinese contemporary art development corresponds to the development of the country," Wang said, adding that "Chinese contemporary art is about contemplating social problems".

Artist Shu Yong , will make his Venice debut with his 20-metre-long, two-metre-tall Guge Wall, made from 1,500 resin " guge bricks", on the lawn outside the China pavilion. Each brick contains a piece of rice paper bearing handwritten Chinese statements and idioms Shu collected from various public platforms, accompanied by a fragmented English translation done by Google Translate. Google is referred to as "Guge" on the mainland.

Shu said he hoped his work could demonstrate the barrier between cultures while contemplating present Chinese society. He said the mainland had no direct access to Google and people had to scale the "great firewall" in order to read news on Google, and that signified one barrier between the mainland and the rest of the world.

"How can China be a global citizen, and how can the rest of the world get to know China? How can we break this wall?" Shu asked. "Language is the greatest barrier between people. Cultural difference under the force of globalisation is one of the topics I contemplate. I hope people can think about these questions." He Yunchang , also showing in Venice for the first time, created a conceptual interactive work, The Sea Water of Venice.

It features hundreds of small bottles containing sea water on a long bench on the lawn. The artist asked spectators to fill up their own drinking bottles with sea water from an adjacent water tank and place their own bottles on the bench in exchange for one of his 15mm glass bottles.

He said he hoped his work could cheer people up but at the same time he wanted to convey a message of equality. "There's definitely inequality in China, but it's also a universal desire," He said. "To exchange sea water with sea water is also about the sharing of natural resources."

The biennale has 47 collateral events outside the main exhibition and national pavilions, with a strong showing from mainland artists and the global diaspora of Chinese artists.

The Hong Kong pavilion is displaying You (you). by Lee Kit, presented by the Arts Development Council and the West Kowloon Cultural District's visual culture museum M+, and Zuecca Project Space's Ai Weiwei - Disposition. Macau is presenting a pavilion and Taiwan is presenting This is not a Taiwan Pavilion.

Organised by the Taipei Fine Arts Museum of Taiwan, the exhibition features works by Bernd Behr, Hsu Chia-wei, Katerina Seda and Batezo Mikilu exploring the issues of co-existence and cultural identity.

The Venice Biennale opens to the public tomorrow and runs until November 24.