Gallery

new photography in guangzhou

All month I’ve been meaning to blog this, but attack of laziness and other things to keep me occupied meant it always slipped away. So, mid-last year I mentioned, the book 3030: New Photography in China around the time it was published, and mostly forgot about it. Then PingMag from Tokyo did one of its famous interview/essays on the monograph with some of the photographers from Beijing, Shanghai and of course my favourite town, Guangzhou. While reading it, I was reminded just what entranced me last time I was in the city, when I met a bunch of quite amazing young artists, designers, all-round creative people the were part of something like a Cantonese cultural renaissance of art kids.

I was going to lament the lack of relevance of so much contemporary dance in some of the cities artists in this book come from, and compare that lack to the phenomenally strong and unique contemporary art, photography, performance, design, music, magazines and pretty much everything else coming from the new generations in these places, but … I’m not feeling particularly lucid today.

So back to Canton art kids, and the bunch I met while making apocalypse prd 岭南启示录, some who are in 3030, some who appear in the photos, many who are part of this large and really cool diffuse mass of artists who are making art that is so strikingly relevant to the cities it comes from. I occasionally carry on about Cantonese new art, and so I guess for everyone who tries and fails to imagine what it looks like, this article and all the links to the artists pretty much is it.

However, the basic premise of the “3030″ book is that after the Open Door Policy – the implementation of sort of new policies and an economic liberalization in the very early 90s – China changed so much. Here is this first generation of young people that has grown into maturity under this new program. So their experience of China is very different and clearly unlike their parents they know the country only as a booming economy and fairly international place. Naturally their work is quite different. Being in their mid, late 20s, they are maturing as artists too. But their work has started to be shown only very recently, maybe in the last few years, with a couple of exhibitions and then only in China.

— PingMag – New Photography in China

New Photography In China

What did you know about Chinese photoblogging so far? It surely must be young, fresh, and wild – and it is, as you can see on the cover of the photo book 3030: New Photography In China: there are the legs of a woman in pink in white net stockings and she seems to be spitting something floury white onto the ground. This is the work from Lin Zhi Peng aka 223 who seems to be some kind of a Chinese Terry Richardson, regarding his blog. Other contributers are for instance Cao Fei, Peng&Chen, Birdhead or Alex So. PingMag asked “3030″ editor John Millichap all about the vivid contemporary Chinese photo art scene – and let participators 223 and Wen Ling aka Ziboy have their word, too, afterwards.

Written by Verena

John Millichap, you told me before you have been in China for quite a while now…

For nearly ten years I have worked in Hong Kong as a journalist and got hold of the art scene. Then, after one year in Beijing, I moved to Shanghai two years ago.

How would you describe the art scene in Hong Kong?

It seems to be much smaller and is quite different in character from the massive mainland. Even Hong Kong doesn’t have the richness and the variety of China, it has a very well organized infrastructure, like the gallery network, the museums, etc.

What about Shanghai and Beijing?

Though since 1949 Beijing tends to be the cultural center of China, it feels like for me that Shanghai is far more out looking, far more receptive to new ideas. My impression is of Beijing that people go there to be an artist, but it is less compartmentalized in Shanghai: a lot of the creativity there is harvest to particular industries like fashion or the media and there are lots of young people mixing graphic design, fashion, photography, and painting. People there told me that they want to build up another 100 galleries over the next 8 to 10 years there alone.

How did your book 3030: New Photography In China evolve? You even founded the publishing house “3030 Press” just for that…

We started in early 2006 with various ideas, but a photo book seemed the easiest to execute. At that time, a lot of photographers in Hong Hong were starting to come to Shanghai in particular and I knew a few of them.

“3030″ is also the concept of the book: a selection of 30 photographers under 30. What is distinctive for this younger generation?

The artists themselves changed, their experience of art and their sense of themselves as artists: the new generation seems to be more sophisticated in many ways in their manipulation of images and ideas – simply because they have been more exposed to more ideas, maybe more foreign influences than the previous generation.

How did you find all the artists?

UNITAG, the guys who designed the book, are in touch with the whole creative and quite tight networks in Shanghai, Beijing and Guangzhou. They helped me to get introduced to people. Also, Ou Ning and Gu Zheng who contributed two articles to the book are quite well known figures on the scene.

What were the criteria for the book selection?

There were several limitations: I produced the book independently with no sponsors, so because of the costs the number of pages were limited. Nevertheless we tried to include a broader selection of people geographically as possible from Shanghai, Guangzhou and Beijing. If you look at general trends, I think there are regional differences: the media seems to have more influence for artists in places like Guangzhou or Shanghai. There the artists’ works tend to be more documentary style which may reflect their day jobs in the media, working for magazines. Whereas in Beijing people might take their position as artists more serious and their works might reflect their ideas of themselves as artists.

Also we wanted to catch an idea of the different influences that affect the works: we have the high art people, the media folks and artists who do weblogs as well. These are bloggers that have quite amateur sites as they haven’t been involved in too many exhibitions yet, but they are very popular in China.

Check out the artists’ blogs via the 3030 Press website, more at photoblogchina.com or in the detailed listing of Ou Ning’s blog.

Unlike much of the art from China you get to see overseas, “3030″ shows Chinese pop culture and doesn’t spend so much time on known art that deals with Mao or the Cultural Revolution…

That’s why we picked Lin Zhi Peng’s work as cover for the “3030″ selection: it is an aggressive kind of a Punk image that gives you absolutely no clue that this is about Chinese photography – as there are no revolutionary images, neither dragon nor calligraphy, and not even a Chinese face.

We wanted something that didn’t trade on any of the preconceptions about Chinese art. As for contemporary art from China to be successful in the West, it has to press certain buttons and, in a way, has to trade on the kind of clichés like the Cultural Revolution and Mao. It’s a particular generation and a particular kind of art which Western audiences, or Western collectors, find quite accessible. That’s why there tends to be a lot of political pop, or, to use another term, cynical realism.

However, the basic premise of the “3030″ book is that after the Open Door Policy – the implementation of sort of new policies and an economic liberalization in the very early 90s – China changed so much. Here is this first generation of young people that has grown into maturity under this new program. So their experience of China is very different and clearly unlike their parents they know the country only as a booming economy and fairly international place. Naturally their work is quite different. Being in their mid, late 20s, they are maturing as artists too. But their work has started to be shown only very recently, maybe in the last few years, with a couple of exhibitions and then only in China.

Will you show us some more work from China with “3030 Press” then?

Our next book will be about Chinese graphic design, and there will be a follow-up of the “3030″ photography selection. Also we are planing another photo book called “17″: once more a collaborative project with photographers portraying young Chinese between 17 and 19 years old, trying to capture the changing generation.

Thank you John Millichap for your interesting photo book selection!

Next PingMag asked two participants of the book, namely Lin Zhi Peng aka 223 and Wen Ling aka Ziboy about their perception of the Chinese art scene:

223 works currently as chief editor of a lifestyle/culture/fashion magazine in Guangzhou. Ziboy moved from Beijing to the States recently. He is the founder of photoblogchina.com, a directory listing of Chinese photoblogs. As one of his recent projects he collected a Chinese photoblog exhibition via Flickr.

Ziboy, what are your favourite photoblogs at the moment?

Ziboy: Michael Zhang
Hunkabutta
Rion

And 223: what is it about your “Nature-Graphy Society”?

223: Me and my friend Alex So, also a young photographer from Guangzhou city, founded it in 2004. With “Nature-Graphy” we focused on any natural image style, like for example snap shots, and used to organize some exhibitions, snap shot activities and photography screen shows in coffee shops. But recently we were too busy for further events.

How do you see China today – for young people making art?

223: If you like it, do it.

Ziboy: Better and better. In particular, the Chinese art market is booming and more and more young artists can live by art. The society is also more acceptable to the new arts community.

And how do you think did the situation change in the last couple of years?

223: There were more and more exhibitions and creative activities in the last two years alone. For example, the GET IT LOUDER exhibition or iMART, a creative market where young people sell their handmade works and design.

Ziboy: Previously, China’s art market was limited and only a few top-notch artists could depend on it. But still, young people involved in the arts often feel no protection in their life.

Is particularly young Chinese art popular in the media?

223: Some magazines focus on young people’s lifestyle but most of the mainstream media like to report on mainstream art.

Apart from online websites – are there enough platforms, like exhibitions and galleries where you can see it?

223: Of course. Apart from GET IT LOUDER, there are more and more concept shops in Chinese main cities that do exhibitions and shows for young people.

Ziboy: For artists having more and more galleries is generally a good thing. But now there have been too many art galleries in Beijing, a few new ones every month. I hope that there will be more art museums whose purpose is not solely commercial.

One last thing: is there a street art scene / a graffiti culture in your city?

223: Yes. I would say that Guangzhou has the first graffiti society in China and it all started from there.

Ziboy: The government is very strict and doesn’t allow graffiti. There are only a few locations in Beijing that have some.

Thank you two as well, 223 and Ziboy, for giving us a glimpse into the young Chinese art scene!

Gallery

创意广州十三行 creative canton

It was slightly unnerving, to be lying there above the swollen and turbulent Pearl River, undercutting the empty, but for the wet smell of old piss, embankment, seeing and feeling another raging monsoonal deluge lumbering across Fangcun and towards Haizhu. With my eyes closed and the sharp tang of urine issuing from the concrete planters, my vision was populated with clusters of sweaty migrant workers in dirty and ill-fitting suit jackets, cheap leather loafers and white socks, singlets rolled up to their nipples, standing on the parapet at night unloading themselves into the soupy torrent.

This was in late-May, when Guangzhou magazine 周末画报 Modern Weekly, who had recently done a feature on 岭南启示录 Apocalypse PRD, asked me to be part of their 创意广州十三行 Creative Canton interviews with 13 Guangzhou artists, designers and other creative people in 新视线 The Outlook Magazine. My afternoon with them in Haizhu Park I wrote about earlier. I was really looking forward to seeing it in print, but decided on schlepping through airport lounges instead, and only last night remembered it was probably out by now, so spent an hour rifling through their site to come up with the goods.

The other creative profiles include architect Rem Koolhaas, artist Cao Fei, and choreographer Long Yunna, all here for easy reading.

Gallery

famous in haizhu

Following on from the attention 岭南启示录 Apocalypse PRD got in 周末画报 Modern Weekly, I spent the afternoon in Haizhu Park being photographed for a feature in another magazine. I managed to attract a lot of attention in 海珠广场 Haizhu Park especially once I pulled out the Cantonese Opera headpieces, which made for colour-saturated props next to the old guys playing Mahjiang, The old guys, and their small bunch of on-lookers were the only ones who couldn’t give a fuck there was me using them as my personal backdrop, and among all the – at times – large crowd, they interested me the most for their absolute seen-it-all-don-t-care-the-game’s-more-important nonchalance.

It has been raining since before the typhoon missed Guangzhou by a few degrees of latitude, and today the sky leaked uncontrollably, either in a splattering deluge or in almost obnoxious drizzle. I got to recline beside the Pearl River, underneath Haizhu Bridge, storm-water drains vomiting dirt-yellow gouts into the deep main current, it is not an approachable river like the Limmat in Zürich, it is the land here that is tenuous, and the river an inexorable, erasing artery. The banks of which stink of piss.

On the way home I was feeling slightly frustrated. To make a work here, even to have a project-based group here is such a real possibility, the cost of an artistic director alone in Melbourne would pay for three or four performances. For me to keep doing what I have been here, to make something worth the attention I’ve been getting in the media is such a pathetically mediocre sum of money in Australia, so little it’s not worth mentioning. Yet again, I feel like this is it. No more. No more art for Guangzhou from me, no more making strange worlds with amazing, creative, intelligent, avante-garde people who are – who are the future of Guangzhou and Asia. I wonder why bother starting something if there isn’t a commitment to see it through? More than a lack of money, the arts in Australia suffer from something far more pernicious; the lack of imagining a future.

destination prd

In my daily ploughing through a couple of hundred RSS feeds, I read from Danwei, there’s a new quarterly magazine out covering my favourite place, the Pearl River Delta, Destination PRD. It looks mostly aimed at visiting business people, and maybe good for tourists too, and with last years messy demolition of That’s Magazines, leaving I think a fairly poor going-through-the-motions shell of what – when I first arrived in Guangzhou – was an indispensable print and web-based monthly, there’s a crying need for a good English language magazine for Kanton Guangdong.

This magazine was willed into existence by many varied influences. The earliest was the experience of a boat trip from Hong Kong to Jiangmen in February 2004, when the relatively unspoiled potential of the western Pearl River Delta was revealed to an ignorant foreigner. Another was the afternoon spent strolling around Shamian island in Guangzhou, soaking up the innate charm of the old neighborhood, with its Opium Wars-era buildings, and realizing its tourism possibilities while at the same time understanding the ideological obstacles holding back its development. The clincher, however, was at the PRD Conference organized by the South China Morning Post and Hong Kong General Chamber of Commerce in Zhongshan, hometown of Sun Yatsen, in September 2004. It came when Hopewell’s Gordon Wu Ying-sheung, who saw the PR D’s potential for bridge-building before most, responded to a question on why he was in the business by saying: “It’s very simple, you see, the Pearl River Delta has a lot of rivers and people don’t like to get their feet wet.”

— Destination PRD

dongxi wants stuff

I got an email a couple of days ago from the editors of the about to be published dongxi magazine. They have a blog too, and their business model sounds like the one Vice Magazine used: “we came to China to start dongxi. We just couldn’t compete back home”.

New Magazine Seeks Submissions

dongxi needs submissions, which must be sent by e-mail to dxzine@gmail.com. Our first issue is due to come out around November 23, and roughly every month after that.

dongxi pays 50 RMB per poem, photograph and piece of artwork (ideally multiple contributions from each author/artist), and 200-500 RMB per short story.

As for subscribing, it’s very easy. E-mail us a postal address (and preferably a submission) and all future issues will be sent upon publication. If at any time you are not completely satisfied with dongxi, you may cancel your subscription by e-mail at anytime.

Waiting for your works,

Editors
dongxi magazine

— dongxi magazine

spooked

mmm … full bleed colour …

“Spooked – Art and Horror in the Western Australian landscape” documents the three ‘Spooked’ residencies and exhibitions over the period 2002 – 2004.

The publications’ 88 pages of full bleed colour feature works by Susan Flavell, Dawn Gamblen, Phillip Gamblen, Anna Green, Therese Howard, Andrew Nicholls, Sedon Pepper, Pearl Rasmussen, and writing by Travis Kelleher, Gary Martin, Margaret McPherson and Spooked curator Andrew Nicholls.

Developed as part of the Artrage Incubator program, “Spooked – Art and Horror in the Western Australian landscape” has been produced in partnership with the City of Fremantle through the Fremantle Arts Centre and Western Australian Museum.

Psychotropic spider webs, nasty little rat men, birthday pools of pig’s blood, and other uncanny delights… who said landscape art in WA was all about ‘the unique West Australian light’.

“Spooked – Art and Horror in the West Australian landscape” is available for sale from the Fremantle Arts Centre and ARTRAGE.

— artrage

cut-up #6

cut-up the art of living in a medialised landscape issue number 6 is online now. For those of you who can’t read Dutch, here’s what the editors say:

Art, music and the banality of daily politics. Edition #6 of cut.up.magazine is now online.

One new article in English:
Interview with the photographer Rabea Eipperle from Berlin (Bas van Heur).

And for those who (would like to) understand (the) Dutch/Flemish:
The banal fundamentalism of Dutch politics (Thomas van Aalten and Harm Hopman); the work of art in the age of neoliberal recuperability (Didi de Pari$); Dear citizen ñ please behave (Alex van Veen); and the one and only Mediengruppe Telekommander interview (Theo Ploeg).

Images are by Guido Scheffers, Rabea Eipperle and Frank Kloos.

Reviews: Apparat, Rod, Station Rose, The Agents of Impurity, Airbus, Robotobibok and Hypergeo.

Praise, critique, contributions? Let us know what you think. We crave for your attention

— Fibreculture

more chinese sci-fi

Two new Chinese science-fiction magazines have appeared on the market in China. As all the names have ‘fantasy’ and ‘science fiction’ in them, I’m confused. Danwei isn’t.

The first quarter of 2005 sees the formal launch of two new science fiction magazines. Issue number one of World SF 《世界科幻博览》 (not to be mistaken with the industry leader SF World) follows two trial issues last fall and features a retrospective of Chinese SF in the century since the first domestic story, 1904’s Moon Colony: A Novel. As its name implies, this magazine has a focus on international SF; 70% of each issue is devoted to translations.

Science Fiction Story, 《科幻•文学秀》, which ran three trial issues last year, sends out its inaugural issue in March. The cover of the second trial issue, from October, is shown below.

Another entry into this confusion of names is Fantasy Story, 《幻界Story》, a series of three magazines published out of Yunnan province. The December issue of the SF edition is shown below; the agency also has young reader and horror-themed editions. These three, published in 32K versions, do not compete directly with the larger, glossier (and more expensive) 16K books.

— Danwei

that’s OC

I love a good West Coast badly-acted 30-nothing playing emotional-car-crash teenagers in expensive lifestyles, like The OC. The That’s Magazine drama isn’t good tv. The nightmare publisher situation was news back in June. Today the founder of the magazine made an announcement explaining why he sold the websites to AsiaXpat, and maybe providing some of the other side of the story to my previous post.

I’m just part of the audience. I just read the magazines, use the websites, and am thankful there is something in China like this. I don’t want to know what goes on in the office, and really I don’t understand too much of what has happened. I am quite conscious as a reader the effect this all has had on how I perceive the magazine. Whenever I pick up a new issue, or go to the website, it’s not without thinking something nasty happened in the woodshed

From the previous owner and operator of that’s websites. 22 December 2004

The transfer to Asiaxpat of that’s domain names, the websites, and all information and data contained therein was made by me a few days ago. Until that date my company was the legal owner and operator of the sites. That legal ownership has now passed to Asiaxpat. The reason for the transfer is straightforward.

My company was the founder of all that’s magazines, (expect that’s China and, just in case you saw it, that’s Yangzhou) I personally was effectively the sole investor and built the magazines into what they are over the past seven years. I started the websites, mainly as an extra service to readers and useful adjunct to the magazines. My web team did an amazing job –for which I am deeply grateful –at building them into what I think is one of the best English language sites in China . About 60,000 of you registered users seem to agree. I am delighted that we made something that you like and can use.

In September 2004 (why does bad stuff always happen in September?) thanks to a co-ordinated effort between senior management in my Shanghai head office and some external parties, my company, and myself, were forced out of the business we had built. I was brought up in Wales , where at times like these one says: “There it was, gone.” Not much more I can say.

My company retained legal ownership and control of the websites. I had the option to struggle to keep them going, in what was clearly going to be a very difficult and confusing situation, or else to pass them onto a company who could look after them, develop them, and continue to give you, the users, the full benefit of them. I chose the second option, and the company is Asiaxpat.

I have every confidence that asiaxpat.com will do a great job with the sites. (Yes, I know there are some teething problems but those will soon be sorted out.) They have built a great network and service over the years and as a dedicated web based company, with a very similar target market, I think they are the best choice for you, the user.

All that remains is to say it has been a pleasure to serve you with the sites, I hope you continue to enjoy them in their new shape and form.

Mark Kitto
22 December 2004, Shanghai