Qiu Zhijie: Breaking through the ice
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[楼主] bj 2009-02-26 17:01:54
Qiu Zhijie: Breaking through the ice

February 15, 2009 - May 15, 2009

UCCA Big Hall

Co-curated by Jerome Sans, UCCA Director, and Guo Xiaoyan, UCCA Chief Curator
Organized by Emma Guo

text source: UCCA website

The Exhibition

UCCA is proud to present Breaking through the ice, an important solo exhibition by conceptual artist Qiu Zhijie. With Breaking through the ice UCCA initiates a new series of solo exhibitions of the new generation of Chinese artists.

Following a series of exhibitions exploring the origins of Chinese contemporary art such as '85 New Wave, House of Oracles: A Huang Yong Ping Retrospective and Our Future: The Guy and Myriam Ullens Foundation Collection, Breaking through the ice is an ambitious new project, being Qiu Zhijie's first major solo exhibition and featuring totally new works commissioned especially for this exhibition.

Breaking through the ice reveals mankind's desire of building gigantic structures and their related systems, especially within Chinese industrial history. Conceived as a huge sinking ship that is engaging the audience throughout the industrial transformations of China, this highly experimental show displays a wide variety of works ranging from sculpture and installation to ink paintings and pictures. Viewed together these works explore the ill-fated implications of massive industrial state enterprises, such as the iconic Nanjing Yangtze River Bridge, for the individual mind, private life, history, philosophy and surrounding nature.

"Qiu Zhijie is recognized as one of the leading figures of China's new generation of artists. His artistic orientation, theory and curating have time and again been the driving force of several Chinese art movements, setting the standard for younger and more established artists alike", said Guo Xiaoyan, co-curator of the exhibition.

The exhibition is supported by a range of educational programs organized by UCCA and featuring a series of artists' talks, including Qiu Zhijie, as well as a panel discussion between artists, critics and curators.

The Artist

Born in Fujian, China, Qiu Zhijie graduated from Zhejiang Academy of Fine Arts. Since the early 1990s he has been active in contemporary Chinese cultural spheres as well as in the international art community, with his multiple roles as artist, curator and writer. As a curator he has been promoting the sphere of new media art, giving birth to the brand new art landscape evident in the Post Sensitivities exhibitions. His involvement in organizing The Long March Project and his on-site art promotion have made him one of the major participants and contributors in the history of contemporary Chinese art. As an artist his work A one-thousand-time copy of Lantingxu and the photographic series Tattoo have become classical works engraved in the history of contemporary Chinese art for their unique depiction of light, calligraphy and photography. Qiu Zhijie imbues contemporary works with deep-rooted traditional Chinese spirituality, resulting in the latest feat in seamlessly integrating the spirit of the Chinese literati with that of the Avant-Garde. His artworks encompass photography, video, calligraphy, painting, installation and performance art, and exceed the narrow confines of medium aesthetics. In recent years Qiu Zhijie has been teaching at China Academy of Art in Beijing. With his unique philosophy of "total art" and work in cultural studies, Qiu Zhijie has been rebuilding the mechanism of individual creation and social mix, attracting a crowd of young followers as a result.

Qiu Zhijie started the Nanjing Yangtze River Bridge Project in 2006. Focusing on the suicides that were happening on the bridge, Qiu's investigation has been considered the largest recent artistic and sociological experimental project in the Chinese art world. Perceived as a major political symbol in the history of the People's Republic of China, Nanjing Yangtze River Bridge now refers to the complex relations between topics such as revolution, nationalism, modernity and the fate of the individual.
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[6楼] guest 2009-05-05 18:08:22
The Art of Individualism
An artist who sees tragedy in China's monuments.


source: the online Wall Street Journal

Last November, Qiu Zhijie endured a series of personal crises that left him elated and exhausted. The result was another of the mercurial Chinese artist's bursts of creativity—and a cycle of work that tackles some of the most sensitive aspects of modern China.

In Beijing, some of this work is on display at an exhibition at the Ullens Center for Contemporary Art through May 20 and at a separate show in New York at Chambers Fine Art through May 9. Later this year, Mr. Qiu also will exhibit in Berlin during the German capital's "Asia-Pacific Weeks."

Once a 1990s radical who put on underground shows designed to shock, Mr. Qiu is now considered one of China's greatest contemporary artists. Unlike his forerunners, who completely broke with Chinese tradition by painting in oil and creating repetitive motifs, Mr. Qiu is more comfortable with Chinese themes and uses calligraphy in many of his works.

I met Mr. Qiu in Beijing this month, and after a few hours with him, it's clear how he acquired his reputation. A gregarious, funny man, the 40-year-old talks about philanthropy, political control of art, the strange history of contemporary Chinese art, General Motors, the Nanjing massacre and the green tea market. "His mind," says University of Chicago art historian and curator Wu Hung, is "very fast-moving; it's like a fireworks of the mind."

Breaking open a carton of cigarettes, Mr. Qiu told me the story that led to the Ullens show, "Breaking Through the Ice." Last November, he and his wife had their first child. The Ullens Center had just offered him prime space to exhibit. He was excited and starting to work when his daughter contracted a severe case of jaundice. His doctor's advice: The couple should "get rid of" their baby girl because she would be mentally challenged for life.

"This guy was really bad, really evil and said she would be an idiot so just to dump her somehow," Mr. Qiu says. "So I sat down and wrote my daughter a letter telling her I'd love her even if she became an idiot. I wanted to give her advice against this sort of society."

The exhibition starts in the gallery's entrance with a sinking ship that is surrounded by shards of ice—a reference to the Titanic. Around a corner, the exhibition continues in a gargantuan space, a 2,500-square-meter room with towering walls—a former factory hall in Beijing's 798 Art District. The sinking ship envelops the viewer; the floor is the rising waterline and the objects on it are flotsam. All around, installations refer to aspects of industrial society gone mad. The entire exhibition cost roughly $500,000 and was bankrolled by Taiwanese collector and gallerist Jack Hsu.

On the far wall, 30 three-meter high traditional Chinese scrolls mirror the objects around the room. The scrolls refer to Mr. Qiu's daughter: each one bears her image—the outline of her head, or her naked body observing things—and a couplet of advice to her written in Mr. Qiu's vivid calligraphy. Many warn against the sort of harsh, conventional thinking that almost got her killed. Linking the scrolls is a sketch of a huge bridge that crosses the Yangtze River at Nanjing, its span running from scroll to scroll and the space in between resembling girders.

The bridge and the sinking ship symbolize the evil forces that Mr. Qiu wants to warn his daughter against: Both represent an emphasis on the colossal at the expense of the individual. This is something hardly confined to China, but it does have a long history here—from the Great Wall to Tiananmen Square to the Bird's Nest Olympic stadium. His critique goes deeper than any one current form of government, but he sees recent history as having left a tragic series of enormous monuments.

The most powerful is the Nanjing Yangtze bridge. It opened in 1968, in the middle of the Cultural Revolution, and was designed and built despite the pullout of Soviet advisers several years earlier. For decades, it was a key symbol of the Communist Party's ability to go it alone and modernize the country. It is also one of the biggest sites for suicide in the world, with more than 2,000 recorded in its 40-year history.

"This makes it rich in symbolism and something I've been researching now for several years," Mr. Qiu says. He waves off a waiter at the Ullens Center café, saying their choice of green tea is abysmal, settling instead for a black coffee to back up his steady intake of nicotine. "This was a gigantic project and the cost has been gigantic on people."

At the Ullens show, some of the installations are not entirely convincing, such as rattan chairs and furniture, which symbolizes how nature will triumph over industrial society. But then there are ideas that are breathtakingly inventive. One corner of the room has old bathroom mirrors from the Cultural Revolution adorned with the Nanjing bridge—no Chinese home of that period would have been complete without one. Mr. Qiu has rebuilt the mirrors so water runs from the top to the bottom of them, symbolizing the tears the city's residents have shed for Nanjing's World War II massacres and later suicides.

Then there are installations that are so laden with Chinese meaning that you almost need a degree in Sinology to figure them out—but once the meaning is clear, they are startling. One is a series of flyleaf springs from Chinese trucks. On top of them lies a single reed. The flyleaves are meant to look like waves on the Yangtze. The reed symbolizes the single reed used by a Buddhist monk to cross the river. The entire work is a reference to a famous painting by the Southern Song landscape artist Ma Yuan.

"The ideas never stop," Mr. Qiu says. "That's never a problem I have."

Mr. Johnson, a Pulitzer Prize winner, is a reporter in the Journal's Beijing bureau.