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Modern Bestiaries

陈溪 Cecilia Chan 2016-03-20 15:48

Zhou Xiaohu:Andy Warhol in Beijing

Western media called him the pioneer of Chinese experimental animation. However, Zhou Xiaohu’s works are not limited to just that. They are more like a comprehensive experiment - he combines stop-frame animation with a unique style of painting and sculpture. His works are unorthodox yet captivating. In 2013, he created an animation based on Andy Warhol’s Beijing trip, Beijing Mirror, as a part of a series of works called “History of Misunderstanding”. Zhou took Warhol’s iconic 1982 Beijing trip as his fodder, and presented artistic falsities as “evidence”, using mixed media to create a parallel history of Warhol and his trip to Beijing. 


In Bejing Mirror, Zhou painted in oil scenes from Warhol’s trip taken by the photographer Christopher Makos. In the five minute animation, Warhol can be seen cruising down the streets of Beijing on the back of a moped with his arms wrapped around a large mirror that reflects himself and a crowd of cyclists behind him. “In 1982, Andy Warhol briefly visited Beijing for two days without much planning,” explains Zhou, “He obviously went to Tian’anmen Square and took a bunch of pictures. It’s funny that he fell in love with the blue suit that everyone in China was wearing and thought it was very pop art in spirit.” Zhou says that this originates in cultural misreading. “Misreading tends to come from misplaced confidence in one’s own interpretation of things; it may be deliberate misunderstanding to satisfy one’s world view, or simply that we are often unaware of our own ignorance.” 


Nowadays, Zhou travels around the world for his exhibitions yet he never stops working. His travels allow him to work with people from different cultural backgrounds. Zhou says: “I look forward to the feeling of being ‘one of them’, it creates a mutual interpretation of things; this spiritual influence is real both for understanding or misunderstanding- it is fleeting but immersive at the same time.” Zhou noticed that regardless of where he was, the feeling that the grass being greener elsewhere was universal. With more and more international attention on China’s modern art scene, Zhou says: “If we want to have a role in the world, we need to be clear about our own rules, otherwise, we are just playing along. We need to have new ideas, new ways of playing, and then we can have our value to share. Cultural strategy cannot be built up in one day.” 

About Zhou Xiaohu


Zhou XiaohuBorn in 1960 in Changzhou, Zhou Xiaohu graduated from the Sichuan Fine Art Institute and currently lives and works in Shanghai. Zhou was one of the earliest Chinese artists who tried to combine sculpture with animation. In practicing comprehensive art media, he often starts with the history of misreading and the negative strategy of contemporary living while constantly pushing forward and questioning one’s way of perception. 

Guo Xi:Privilege of “Lying” from Grand Voyage 

Last year, Chronus Art Centre, the new media art partner of the Chinese Pavilion, La Biennale Di Venezia, organized the second work of a series of parallel online projects under the theme of Folklore of the Cyber World; Guo Xi’s and Zhang Jianling’s The Grand Voyage. Showcasing the creativity and tension of new technology from China’s younger generation of artists, the work is intended to usher the viewer to experience an epic voyage. In a 86-day cross-ocean journey, the artists bore witness to twelve prophecies that they had previously wrote, and brought back evidence of those prophecies to the “continents of known”. The prophecies not only reflected potential routes to the theme, but also serve as an index leading to endless interpretations. The journal of the voyage is the most important thing of this trip: “The real voyage has been completed, we started our 86-day trip on the 1st of March. This trip was real and just because it was real, it gives us the privilege of ‘lying’. Just like Marco Polo returned to Italy and exaggerated what he had experienced in China, our description is always mixed with our own understanding of the facts. Maybe this can explain the meaning of the ‘lies’ in our project,” Guo explains. 


It seems like a trivial and ordinary journal with precipitation of emotion and memory, but every single story is connected with Guo and Zhang’s daily thinking. In one of the predictions, Guo had a bite of a “blue-filling Oreo” and suddenly understood the mystery of the universe. This leads to an interesting part in this art work - The Colour Blue. Guo has his own thoughts: “The blue colour has become a symbol of the current reality that we are experiencing. It represents an efficient, friendly, and peaceful ‘interface’; the vast majority of logistics, telecommunications industry, and social network choose blue as their logo colour. However, the colour blue hasn’t been Pantone’s colour of the year for ten years. The reason is that we are in a time of stress and people need to uplift their spirit and avoid blue’s melancholy. But blue has always been a space that is full of thoughts and illusion,” Guo muses. When Marco Polo was traversing the River Oxus in Afghanistan, he found noted the land was rich with lapis lazuli, writing: “There is a mountain in that region where the finest azure (lapis lazuli) in the world is found. It appears in veins like silver streaks.” Prized for its intense colouration, artisans have been processing lapis lazuli for millennia to adorn the most precious and sacred of things; from Tutankhamen’s eyebrows on his deathmask, to depictions of the Virgin Mary’s robe. Blue was the colour of nobility. When man-made Prussian blue spread to Japan, it became the rolling waves on a Hokusai print. French artist Yves Klein was touched by Giotto Di Bondone’s blue and believed that blue is ‘limitless’ made tangible. In The Grand Voyage, Guo and Zhang chose a blue as “the colour of the era”, explaining: “During the planning period of the work, we hoped to use stories with different roles and different creation formats to explore the breadth of ‘infinite’, ‘unknown’ and ‘romantic’ in the space of blue.” 


With the support of Imagokinetics, the institution aiming to detect and support innovative artistic forms, and Costa Cruises, the artists were enable to embark on their journey. “The ocean is the place where mystery is stored, even with our remarkable knowledge of the world, the ocean remains largely unexplored. Modern science and technology still can’t find the missing MH370. In a way, this recalled the curiosity and terror that unlimited blue can invoke in people’s minds.” After the 86-day trip, Guo concluded: “When you stay in one place for too long, your life tends to fall into a repetitive loop. The biggest advantage of travelling is breaking you out of the monotony of routine and discovering new ways of living.” 

About Guo Xi


Born in 1988 in Yan Cheng, Jiang Su province, Guo Xi graduated from the New Media department in the China Academy of Art in 2010. After graduation, he became a resident artist in Rijksakademie in the Netherlands for two years. In 2015, he obtained his MA degree in Studio Art from NYU. Guo is concerned with the ideology that people rely on when they interpret their world. The intersection of overlapping ideologies can be very strong, and he utilizes a dramatized sense of humor to soften it. 

Lu Pingyuan:The Journey of “Dreams” 

Lu Pingyuan is known for his series of ridiculous and adventurous “ghost stories”, somewhat nonsensical but clearly playful. Just as how we might, despite knowing their fictitious origins, become absorbed by ghost stories spread online, so Lu is testing the boundaries of fact and fiction. This time, Lu’s most recent exhibition is named after a Japanese conceptual artist, On Kawara, who lived in New York and died in 2014. While Lu’s work for this exhibition seems identical to On Kawara’s creations - a daily painting of that day’s date in the language used by the country that the artist was in at the time, they are actually created entirely by Lu. 


On Kawara started the series Today in 1966 and continued them until his death. These date records became an intersection of life and existence in time, the rare recordings of the artist’s existence as he had started to lead a secluded life; refusing interviews and not adding any personal information to his works. This series symbolizes his minimalism style- forms were extracted in a simple and clear way, so the only content in the picture is that day’s date. In order to create “pure” artwork, he never showed up at public occasions. He had truly become an “invisible” artist. 

When asked about his motivation for this art show, Lu says it’s all from a dream he had: “Dreams and reality are both parts of my memory and they overlap each other, you never know which part affects you more.” Lu claims that in his dream, he saw a man standing against a strong light. Though he could not make out his face, he felt that this man was On Kawara, asking Lu to continue his work. 


While you may argue this is surely an elaborate ruse to plagiarize someone else’s work, Lu manages to keep a straight face throughout. “This format is exactly the same as On Kawara’s,” Lu explains, “Out of my respect to him, I tried to do the same in every detail of the implementation. It is a story that happened to me, and it still continues. I still haven’t been able to describe it using my own words.” Lu says he didn’t pay much heed when he first saw On Kawara’s work in a picture album. It was in 2008 when he saw his artwork in person on the Dia:beacon foundation in the US, and he was moved by the reclusive artist’s life story. Thus, Lu made the grim-but-romantic promise to dream-On Kawara to continue his work. After he woke up, Lu started to do research on On Kawara’s creation process, mimicking every tiny detail. 

Lu says that this is an artwork in which he uses his own time to help On Kawara continue his work. Through copying the extremely minimalist artist, Lu realized the rigorous and stubborn attitude that On Kawara had for his artwork. “Through the painting of dates, I really felt that time is passing away,” Lu ponders, “I use my life and time to fulfill a promise to a person from another world, which makes the meaning of time complicated and interesting. I wonder what time means to him now?” 

About Lu Pingyuan


Lu Pingyuan was born in Jin Hua, Zhejiang Province in 1984. His artwork has a very strong character of modern active youth. His over-detailed observation of daily objects and uncertainty to art is very interesting. His concept of what art should be and should not be is not limited and helps him to extract the keywords from objects that he thinks are interesting, and represent them again using paintings, images, behaviors, devices, and other means. 

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