Venue: Beijing Center for the Arts
Artistic Director: Weng Ling
Curator: Christopher Philips
Artists: Bill Viola, Janaina Tschäpe, Song Dong, Wang Gongxin
Special program: ShanShui Conservation Center
Sponsor: Volkswagen Audi
Beijing Center for the Arts (BCA) is pleased to announce “Shan Shui 2010: H20”, the second annual Shan Shui exhibition, which will be held from November 20, 2010 through January 5, 2011. Curated by Christopher Phillips from the United States, the exhibition will present works by four globally active contemporary artists — Bill Viola, Janaina Tschäpe, Wang Gongxin and Song Dong — all of whom explore water as an artistic theme. The exhibition is a continuation of the “Green Art Project” launched by BCA in 2009 with the exhibition “Shan Shui: Nature on the Horizon of Art” that addressed the issues of extinction of species, climate change, environmental politics and green industry etc. through site-specific works from Maya Lin, Wang Jianwei and Zhouwei, as well as documentary screenings and symposiums. “The Green Art Project” aims to encourage discussion of ways for humankind to create a sustainable balance between the natural environment and the needs of human society.
Water is a constant element of human existence. It covers more than 70 percent of the earth’s surface, and makes up more than half of the composition of the human body. It is also a substance without a fixed form, appearing in nature as rain, mist, fog, clouds, ice, sleet and hail, as well as oceans, lakes, rivers and waterfalls. Because it is a symbol of all that is changeable and fleeting, water has long fascinated artists who take a special interest in the natural world. Water has been a recurring subject in Chinese contemporary art over the past twenty years, as evident in the paintings, sculptures, photography, video, and installation works by the country’s leading artists.
“Shan Shui 2010: H20” encompasses works by four well-known contemporary artists who demonstrate an unusually wide range of approaches to water as both a subject and a material for art.
Bill Viola, a pioneering American video artist, will present Ablutions (2005), a video diptych originally commissioned to accompany a production of the opera Tristan und Isolde, a 19th-century masterpiece by the composer Richard Wagner. The high-definition video portrays the ritual of bodily cleansing performed by a man and a woman, with slow-motion imagery and a hypnotically flowing stream of water used to create a calming, meditative visual mood.
Blood Sea (2004), a four-screen video installation by Brazilian-German artist Janaina Tschäpe, provides a visually extravagant ocean fantasy involving mythic aquatic creatures such as mermaids and sirens. The video features haunting glimpses of female figures wearing colorful, flowing gowns, who float underwater as dazzling sunlight pours down from the water’s surface. The work has been exhibited by Centre Pompidou in 2007.
Beijing artist Wang Gongxin will continue his exploration of innovative new forms of video in the new commissioned installation piece Rain, or Water (2010). Using multiple video projections to direct a carefully syncopated sequence of images onto the gallery floor, the work employs startling visual effects to suggest the ways that a rain shower might transform objects of many different kinds. The artist attempts to take audiences in between realities and unrealities to present unexpected theatrical experiences.
Touched 100 Years (2010) is a new work by Beijing artist Song Dong that was commissioned for this exhibition. He has collected a series of publicly-available images concerning historical figures and events that took place from 1910 to 2010. By showing each image reflected on a watery surface that he sometimes touches with his hand to “dissolve” the image, he suggests the instability and transience of human memory. With an inclination towards skepticism, the work explores the subtle and complicated relationships between humans and memory, time and history.
Also on view at BCA will be 10 documentaries from “Through Their Eyes” — a community documentary project from China’s water head sites initiated by the Shan Shui Conservation Center. Devoted to the emerging global water crisis and the conservation efforts that are now being introduced in China and around the world, the project gave support to communities by providing them with video cameras to document their own views on the environment and culture, thus reflecting a grassroots perspective about man’s connection to nature. It also poses questions about the contemporary relations between humanity and nature, tradition and modernity, as well as the spiritual and the material.
“Shan Shui 2010: H20” will be accompanied by discussions and an illustrated catalogue.