Never Go Out Without My DV cam
Video Art from China


A project curated by Hou Hanru

April 5th to may 28th, 2006
Museo Colecciones ICO, Madrid

Digital video has become probably the most popular new technology in contemporary art today. Responding to the progress of digital technology and imaging industry, it provides contemporary art an unprecedented space of experimenting with new ways of observing, recording and criticise the world, as well as constructing diverse narratives that are flexible, open and liberated from the constraints of linear time and space. On the other hand, the facility of quasi immediate reproduction and distribution via different global networks are also changing the nature of the artistic creation, allowing it to become more biased towards communication, sharing and collaboration. Perhaps for the first time in history, artistic creation can be explored as a veritable dream of the common across the world. Certainly, this is a logic production of globalisation. In the meantime, it’s an incredibly efficient tool of critiques and propositions for alternatives visions vis-à-vis the dominant, late-capitalist culture of image itself.

Along with China’s active participation in the global economic and cultural scene, Chinese contemporary art has become an exciting focus for many. It’s perhaps the hottest point at the moment. One of the most amazing part of this dynamic scene is video art. Born in the late 1980s, video art has now become one of the outstanding aspect in the Chinese art scene. It’s experimental nature and immateriality help it escape from the current wave of commercialisation of art, notably the frenzy for Chinese paintings, while artists can truly enjoy the freedom of imagination and expression. The introduction of digital camera, computer editing and reproduction has largely increased such a freedom and provoked a fundamental change in terms of the creation process for most of the artists. Now, almost every artist has obtained a DV cam and used them for his or her work.

In fact, Chinese contemporary has been “invented” directly out of confrontation with a reality in explosive mutation since the 1980s when China started opening itself up to the world. It’s culturally, socially and politically engaged with the struggle for freedom. Very often, art works are directly given birth from real life situations, such as street actions and daily activities. Today, this aspect remains the most dynamic and innovative element in China’s art scene in spite of the increasing possibilities of participating in more established institutional or economic events such as museum exhibitions, biennials and art fairs, etc. The very flexibility of DV can provide the best weapon for artists who are acting like urban guerrillas in their engagement with reality. On the other hand, more and more artists are now interested in the possibilities of constructing personal, alternative and original narratives of the real while their desire and obsession with individual fantasies and dreams are pushing them to become even more innovative. Parallelly, an experimental film movement has also been developed along side contemporary visual arts. It has created an impact on video artists who are searching for more sophisticated and profound restructuring of their narratives. Other fields such as experimental music and theatre are also being more and more incorporated into video art works. In turn, digital video becomes a veritable playground for multi-disciplinary collaboration and innovation and stands as real pioneer in the search of new definition of artistic activities.

For the last decade, a whole generation of video artists in China have opened up a wide space for negotiation between individual and the society, between artistic imagination and social engagement, between witness of the real and utopian prospecting… a great number of video works are providing direct testimonies of China’s contradictory but exciting social mutation, dealing with issues such as urbanisation, modernisation, migration, cultural, moral, economic and political restructuring, globalisation, etc. and their impacts over everyone’s everyday life. They are forming a powerful movement of social documentaries. At the same time, other artists are deepening their personal exploration of fantasy in their negotiation with this rapidly revolving world. The uncertainty of the outside world and the impossibility of grasp and comprehension of reality provide opportunities for artists to generate even more fictional products of imaging, oscillating between curiosity and desperation, between exaltation and frustration, between pleasure and irony, between humour and helplessness… Social responsibility and individual desire are going hand in hand to create an extraordinary scene of creation. These incredible intensities make today’s video art in China wonderfully abundant and interesting. Therefore, it proves to be certainly one of the most pertinent and significant form of artistic expression. Meanwhile, some of the most meaningful artists in the global art scene are appearing out of this intense context. They are contributing actively to restructure our visions of contemporary art in the entire world.

Chinese contemporary art is now reaching a certain summit of international recognition. And to understand it in a more relevant way, it’s urgent and necessary to present in a more systematic manner video art works from such a specific moment and locality. By natural extension in our age of global communication and displacement, they are an indispensable part of the new global situation. It’s also a natural decision that we’d like to propose an exhibition of Chinese video art for the Museo Colecciones ICO in Madrid when the art world in Spain is looking for a deeper knowledge and understanding of, as well as exchange with, the Chinese art scene after some more generic introductions of Chinese contemporary art for the last few years. With the presence of over 20 artists’ works, we hope to provide a diverse vision of this dynamic movement, with distinct quality and significance. The artists are from all around the country, ranging from Beijing to Shanghai, from Guangzhou to Hangzhou, and many other cities while some of them are today based in abroad travelling back and forth to the country. They form a kind of selective panorama. But what is articulated most here is the individuality of each artist. It’s through the success of the individual that he or her can become truly globally valuable.

Chinese contemporary art is going global. At the same time, an artist would always reminds himself: “Never go out without my DV Cam!”

Program 1:Witness

Cao Fei:Father
Huang Weikai:Floating
Jiangzhi:Our Love
Zhou Hai/Ji Jianghong:Houjie

Program 2:Me and the world

Cao Fei:Cosplayer
Chen Shaoxiong:Ink City
Huang Xiaopeng:I always get a bit jumpy when I’m suspended in the air
Kan Xuan:One by One
Xu Zhen:We are right back
Yang Zhenzhong:Light as Fuck
Zhou Xiaohu:The Gooey Gentleman
Zhu Jia:Double Landscape

Program 3:Fantastic Narratives

Cao Fei / Ou Ning:San Yuan Li
Chen Xiaoyun:Queen Lili’s Garden
Liang Yue:Stop Dazing
Lu Chunsheng:History of Chemistry
Wang Jianwei:Spider

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