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Curator Zhang Cheng on the “Annals of Floating Island” Exhibition at Hanart TZ Gallery

Cheng and Song Zhengxi have curated “Annals of Floating Island," an exhibition encompassing media ranging from paintings to photography and video, all contemplating the presence of technology and virtual reality in our lives.

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 23 August, 2016, 12:16pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 19 October, 2016, 5:22pm

What’s the purpose of this exhibition? From the curatorial concept to the artworks and the artists, the exhibition illuminates a young mainland Chinese art landscape. Most of the works shown are relatively new, including “The Grand Voyage,” an extensive ongoing project that began in 2014, while some of the other pieces are older works. But all the works tap into a collective artistic concern regarding the ideas of social and virtual reality. 

What does a “floating island” represent to you? The key image represents an unanchored existence that drifts across the sea. In contemporary life we are floating on ever-changing currents, on an ocean of banal knowledge and unverified information, with much of our experience built on a virtual reality. Social media in our internet-dominated society permeates and alters our reality, perception and judgment—this serves as a key point of inspiration.

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Did you begin with an idea first, and then commission artists, or did you find a linking theme among the artists’ work? The artists involved are not only collaborators but our friends as well. These artists all share a sense of uncertainty in the age of information, in the virtual world of the internet and in consumer society. We selected them for this show as we felt they fit the inherent theme of “uncertainty.”

Regarding the theme, was there a deliberate effort to sound hyper-current, or was it a natural result of the process? In my mind, what we are concerned with is not some complex, clever technique but rather, how we communicate with the reality of this era while being inundated by technology. How do we deal with distance and inertia and how do we handle the interactive force that also emerges? 

What sort of impact have these technologies had on the artistic landscape of China? To quote the artist and CAA professor Qiu Zhijie, ‘Compared to van Gogh’s time, when people felt a sense of amazement when first encountering a photograph or a train, in our era even the Internet doesn’t strike us as anything special.’

What can visitors take away from the exhibit? I hope visitors will be inspired to ask questions.

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