Curated by five Korean, Chinese, and Japanese curators under the theme of ‘an/other avant-garde china-japan-korea’, Project 1 shed light on Korean, Chinese, and Japanese experimental avant-garde art that spontaneously came into being in each country in 1960s~1980s. ‘an’ in the title refers to how the avant-garde spirit of the three countries can become one and the same whereas ‘other’ also denotes how the avant-garde spirit is one however Korean, Chinese, and Japanese art were having different situations and retaining their own forms respectively.
Cai Guoqiang began working with gunpowder in his art practice since 1984. During his time spent in Japan between 1986-1995, Cai continued to explore the possibility of using this material and gradually expanded the scale of the explosions, paving the way for his famous outdoor explosion projects. Project to Extend the Great Wall of China by 10,000 Meters: Project for Extraterrestrials No.10 explores the original function of the city wall, and the relationship between human beings to the great universe. Moreover, Cai has always realized his conceived notions through collaboration with others. More than hundreds of visitors and volunteers extend a ten thousand meters trigger and the gunpowder bag symbolizing the beacon posts, from the west end of the Great Wall at Jiayuguan to the Gobi Desert. Installed and lit at dusk, the light slit the horizon open like a flying dragon, as it trickled and spiraled, it disappeared above the snowy mountain. This project completed outside of the Great Wall lasted 15minutes, leaving an explosive line measuring over 10 thousand meters. It is also the most important work in the Project for Extraterrestrials. Other than gunpowder explosions, Cai Guoqiang’s art practice spans from painting, installation, video, performance and other artistic mediums, founded on Eastern philosophy and contemporary social issues, subjects to local circumstances, iterates and responds to local cultural history and society, nature and the universe.
Ding Fang’s tragic rendition is an important highlight of “rational painting” from the ’85 Art New Wave Movement. Unlike making basic sketch, his landscape series depict the yellow earth of the highland and the northwestern wilderness, in attempt to represent a sacrilegious reflection and tragic spirit. The subject matter in Polis: Meeting of Lonely Souls is drawn from Ding Fang’s response to the countless ancient castles in ruin located on the shores of the Yellow River and in the vast Gobi Desert. These ancient castles act as ties to communicate with historical memories in the eyes of the artist. Thereon, the composition of objects and overall structure of the image gradually became rigorous and strong, filled with radical and unsettling components. The castles themselves are rigorous, complex, rich and luscious, as they encapsulate the suffering concealed in historical mysticism. Thus, Ding Fang has purposefully placed an enigmatic dim flicker at a distance in City: The Encounter of Lonely Ghosts to suggest the ultimate arrival of new transitions. He introduces heroic sense and tragic awareness into the image, by which to resist the 21st Century globalization and urban materialism. Until today, the subject matters, brushworks and use of colors have changed, while Ding Fang’s art practice continues to probe on the ultimate values and is concerned about healthy living.
As a pioneer in experimenting with abstraction in China, Ding Yi departed from the narrative in the 1980s to embark on a path of abstraction. Appearance of the Crosses series began in 1988, as the “cross” represented the unimaginable terminology and symbol in the printing industry. Ding Yi aimed to filter out all traces of reality in order to allow painting to return to its essence of form and spirit. His “cross” and the derivation of “x”, a meaningless symbol, are representations of structure and reason on the image that reflect the essence of the subject matter. Ding integrates common artistic mediums, transferring the “cross” direct onto the canvas that establishes different perspective and visual effects. The densely distributed “crosses” explore a spatial relationship of the image from a rational approach. The orderly distribution replaces the brushstroke while suggesting a habitual yet oppressed experience. Colorful lines or shapes scattered throughout the space on canvas, engendering rich yet arbitrariness within its inner logic. All of Ding Yi’s works are entitled Appearance of the Crosses followed by the year of creation and a serial number, documenting the urban transformation of Chinese industrialization in the post-socialist era, as well as to serve as an analogy of the mutual relationship between the universe and human order.
Since the mid-1980s, Geng Jianyi exhibited a profound spirit of experimentation in the world of Chinese contemporary art. An organizer of the ’85 New Space and a member of the Pond Society, Geng showed “new characteristics”, where the use of colors was mindful and minimal, and the façade of the image engenders an unusual sense of oppression in the everyday experience. Furthermore, the overall credo of his art practice is revealed through repetition. In 1988, his work Water Factory was created, Geng became inclined to making installations and conceptual art. His adoption of the various artistic means was in response to the human condition with exaggeration, to awaken a clear conscience of his and that of the viewers’ through minute details of the artworks. Interchange of Light was inspired by ID photographs, based on the Chinese adage of “I am part of you and vice versa.” Once the facial features were fragmented, he reassembled them into one image, where the overlapping features could not make up for any particular individual. Untitled has adopted particular context of the Mao era, bringing in the iconic “Panda” to symbolize China, which in turn, subverted the preconceived notion of the “red glory” in the reverence and solemnity of personality cult.
A pioneer of the Chinese avant-garde art in the 1980s and a member of the “New Measurement Group”, Gu Dexin has been wondering for an artist’s identity. His interests in the social functions of “relational aesthetics” made him believe that audience participation is critical in attributing meaning to a work of art. His earlier works consist of drawings, watercolor, embroideries and etc., revealing illicit animalistic qualities of the human world that is both illusory and dystopic. The B series included both the colorful surrealist element of oil painting; the frogs in human figures, the heads poking out of clouds or bushes, and the crude embroidered bizarre animals with human breasts. These imaginary human figures became the basis of his later sculptures, provided inspirations to the animation. In 1989, Gu participated in the exhibition Magicien de la Terre at the Centre Pompidou in France, which was marked as the first recognition of Chinese contemporary art in the West. With his increasing disdain of the art world, Gu stopped all artistic practices in 2009.
The critical positions on his native culture, Western culture as well as his continuous artistic experiments ground Gu Wenda’s position in the history of Chinese contemporary art. As a founding artist of Chinese experimental art, he had already began to explore new possibilities in Chinese painting as early as the 1980s, integrating ancient Chinese cultural spirit and typical symbolic objects with western language of oil painting, even adopting surrealist approaches from an angle of cultural reflection, critiquing the symbolism of the Chinese character and its traditional framework. Drama of Two Culture Formats Merge blends the medium of ink painting with installation with the desire to destroy and inquire. Using lines, permeations and ink splashes, Gu rendered forms that resemble the human face and organs, or rather, symbolic totems in various forms. The two cultures refer to “traditional literati culture and the political culture of the Cultural Revolution”, thus, when the red-cross marks and arrows are added to his imageries, it’s astounding effects become more apparent. In 1987, Gu immigrated to America and began working primarily with mediums of installation and performance, departing from the essence of a human being, posing questions to issues of globalism.
The most important organizer of the “Stars Art Exhibition” and “The Stars”, Huang Rui was influenced by Western art in his earlier practice. By the end of the 1990s, he gradually developed experimental works in his own style. Symmetry and minimalism are the most pronounced characteristics of his works, where his incisive use of color is apparent. Art practice is a means to voice his beliefs, and his consistency on the freedom of expression embodies his concern on social reality. The romantic visual composition and the scenery of desolation of the Yuanmingyuan ruins inspired the Yuanmingyuan series (1979-1981), which became representations of the Chinese cultural spirit in ruins. Wall is a depiction of the artist’s personal experience at the Xidan Democracy Wall in Beijing, a thematic painting set against the backdrop of its time, in which the artist successfully experimented with integrating scenarios into a deconstructed composition. The Guitars Story, AIR No. 1 and Man Reading shown in the 2nd Stars Art Exhibition (1980), are profoundly influenced by Fauvist paintings in displaying a freedom of expressing emotions, presenting a reality through historical narrative. After living in Japan for a decade, Huang returned to Beijing in 2002 to continue his work and pushed the establishment and development of the 798 Art District forward.
A founding member and leader of the Xiamen Dada artists group, one of the most important artists in the wave of Contemporary Chinese art, Huang Yongping has been living in Paris since 1989. Integrating various traditions and mediums, Huang has been constantly challenging existing historical and aesthetic notions, exploring relationships between Eastern and Western cultures, between humans and animals through installations in an attempt to discover a mode of expression that transcends national boundaries and ideological conflicts. His art practice has inherited elements from Joseph Beuys, arte povera and John Cage, as well as elements from traditional Chinese art and philosophy. The Beard was easiest to burn is a Dadaist analogy. The artist recorded and documented the burning Leonardo Da Vinci’s self-portrait with video and photography. As the materials were destroyed, yet notion was left behind. This act does not necessarily symbolize the death of painting, but rather manifests the artist’s attitude and strategy towards the medium. Library Project - Chair is a rattan chair wrapped with disintegrating paper pulp from books. Traditional objects and ideas with modern notions are reconstructed, juxtaposed, integrated in his works, offering new perspectives to the real world.
A core member of the “The Stars” group, Ma Desheng was born in Beijing, where his childhood during the chaotic and unrest of the Cultural Revolution has made profound impacts on him. His earlier works were primarily woodblock prints, a voice of struggle and resistance as he strived for freedom. The monochromatic represents the hardship in everyday reality, contrasting with the carefully selected truth generated by the machines of political propaganda. In 1982, Ma embarked on an art practice that integrated abstract female figures with landscapes in his ink paintings. Visually voluptuous and powerful, these works on papers share similar traits with his woodblock prints: equally elegant brushworks, fluid and incise, allowing the contrast in monochrome to remain strong and clear. Meanwhile, Ma adopted the dispersive characteristics of ink on paper to represent the levels of transformation in the singularity of ink, emulating the shades of the body, a sense of weight, dimensionality and multiplicity. The abstract image rendered in the mode of traditional Chinese painting suggests the most fundamental existence of human kind. Due to high political pressures, Ma Desheng left China for Switzerland in 1985, and currently lives in Paris.
As an important founding member of the “No Name” group, Ma Kelu has been independent of the Official Chinese art system since the beginning of his art practice, pushing the frontline of developing contemporary abstract painting. Without invoking common reality, the artist abstracted landscape into dispersive images of colors; his minimal use of colors rendered rich layers on the image. Riverside was painted at the height of the “No Name” group gatherings. The gray paper carton is smudged in olive green willows. While a work painted en-plein-air took less than ten minutes, it marked the artist’s first ink-painting-like oil painting, in which the atmosphere, brushstroke and aesthetics were revealed on paper. Ma Kelu’s style inched gradually towards abstraction thereafter, where images became richer and purer. Color, the vernacular of the light and his adamant brushstroke in 1989 No.1, represents certain characteristics of expressionism. His creations is maintained an independence, openness and inquisitive quality that embody his thoughts and practice as the artist absorbed oriental culture and art, meanwhile, they conveyed the plight and struggles of his generation, as well as the pursuits and transformation of life experiences.
In the early 1990s in Beijing East Village, Ma Liuming created a persona “Fen • Ma Liuming” with female features in a male body, proposing a disconnecting and separation between genders. His identity and created roles were attributes of artist’s appearance and inner desires, by which to convey the absurdity, helplessness and bitterness of life. In 1993, the British duo Gilbert and George visited Beijing East Village during their exhibition in Beijing, Ma welcomed the duo with a performance – The Wall by Pink Floyd was played in the background, he stripped off his clothes, scanned his surrounding and noticed a crack on the ceiling. Suddenly, blood oozed out from it, poured over his body… Once young artists living in the Beijing East Village dispersed from the area, as one of the few artists who continued to work for performance art, Ma began to emerge in international exhibitions in 1996, and his liberal and lyrical expressions caught the world’s attention. The made-up Ma Liuming became “Fen•Ma Liuming” in Fen•Ma Liuming Walks the Greatwall, nude on the barren and monumental Wall. After 2003, he ceased all performances, and created his own method of painting, namely squeezing to extend the personas and stories on canvas.
Mao Xuhui is a representative of the “New Figurative Image” art movement, and a founding member of the “Southwest Art Research Group.” His works were inspired by everyday life, touching on the artist’s concern for the current state of society. Enriched by his complex feelings and imaginations, the subjectivity and objectivity mutually permeated, overlapped and mixed into symbolic icons. Roaming along the Moat after Drink captures the messy, unbearable, inebriated days and nights of the Southwestern artists living in Yunnan, who supported each other on envisioning a path towards a new field that the former generation have avoided: exposing themselves, unveiling the state of people’s lives. Many years later, emulation of Imitation of the Death of Marat by Jacques-Louis David has yet again proven, that sincerity awakens the awareness of life, an access to the painter’s wisdom, and representation of an abstract sense of reality through the reality of madness. The Death of Marat in his mind surfaced in a grim tone, the marks of tradition and modernity projected in genuine psychological cues that resist the surreal aspects of reality and spirituality. Mao’s works search for the evidence of physical and spiritual existence, in hopes to discover an exit for loneliness and the oppressed soul.
Qiu Zhijie has received training on Chinese calligraphy and read widely on literature and philosophy since a young age. Once influenced by the Fluxes, he was one of the earliest artists to engage in conceptual art and art photography in China. A Thousand Times of Lan Ting Ji Xu is a calligraphic work copying the preface of Lan Ting Ji Xu (Orchid Pavilion) one thousand times, and documented the first fifty editions through photography. Other than the apparent calligraphic quality in its first copy, the editions thereafter only left mere visual traces of the ink, upon the fiftieth copy, even ink traces became difficult to identify, turning calligraphy into a Zen practice of writing. Tattoo series is considered an early representative work in Chinese conceptual photography. The “sense of volume” has been dissolved while the subject lacked resistance, by which the artist launched an attack on the existing clichés, questioning the panoptic of contemporary vision. From painting, photography, installation to video art and performance, Qiu’s artistic practice spans with otherworldly imaginations and rich philosophical footings. He focuses on the shattered aspects of society, juxtaposing traditional Chinese sceneries with modern icons. At the same time, he contests to the limit of the world, using various art mediums, discussing the relationships among them, the works of art and with the viewers.
As a participant of “Xiamen Dada” during the ’85 Art New Wave Movement, Shen Yuan aims to expand the boundaries of artistic expression, to exceed the vernaculars of painting and sculpture and to establish a bridge between art and life. She first unveiled the Water Bed (1989), portraying the artist’s state of existence and political circumstances based on personal analysis and critique of a specific time, at the China Avant-Garde Exhibition. Shen filled water in plastic bag and sealed living fishes in. She placed this plastic bag on a makeshift military metal bed frame, and named Waterbed. “Fish” has the double meaning in China to signify wealth and leisure. Yet, the fish that eventually died on the “water bed” translates the work into an image of death and process of decay, yet the sensual experience has been sealed like a letter, yet every image in this process embodies multiple meanings and implications. In 1990s, Shen immigrated to Paris, and her experiences of cultural clashes as an immigrant became her new point of artistic jobs. Drawing creative inspirations from immigration culture and the clash between East and West in the everyday, Shen presents her thoughts on the dialogue of multiple cultures and their relationship through delicate emotive drives and her sensitivity in the materials.
A member of the “Northern Art Group” during the ’85 Art New Wave Movement, Shu Qun was an early promoter and practitioner of “rational painting.” In Shu’s view, the ultimate issues in art are essentially questions of logic, and the meaning in a work of art is not generated through exhibition but rather, its ability to solve the problem. Hegel’s Absolute spirit, Nietzsche’s hyper-human philosopher and Heidegger’s existentialism are converged into the “civilization of the northern belt”, the composition in religious painting from the middle ages. Metaphysical painting of de Chirico and New Formalism by Mondrian nurtured the abstract and desolate visual forms of “rational painting.” Endless Road series is depicted the fossilized body and the universal environment, the planetary universe, ruins and the seemingly frozen and lifeless bodies. They are temperate criticism on those unconscious brushstrokes. The dark universal space in Absolute Principle (1984-1987) provides a sense of infinity and eternity, the cross, from far to close symbolized time, and the architectural network structures display characteristics of solemnity, sublime and reason. At present, having “reached the sublime” and established “iconic order”, Shu has embarked on a new path towards utopian society.
A member of the “Northern Art Group” in the ’85 Art New Wave Movement, Wang Guangyi later became a representative artist of the “Political Pop” in the 1990s. During his studies at the Zhejiang Art Academy, an early appeal in Western classical art and philosophy propelled the artist to undertake representations of the concealed classical spirit on canvas with solemn and indifferent approaches. At the end of the 1980s, the transformation of the time and people’s experiences made the artists skeptical of the Western politics and cultures they had once yearned for, where Famous Painting Covered with Quick-Drying Industrial Paint and Famous Tune Covered with Quick-Drying Industrial Paint are pictorial experiments founded on this basis. In other words, they suggest the ultimate encounter of industrialization and capital reality with humanistic enthusiasm and ideals. The epic series Great Criticism iconic during the political pop, superimposes the popular propaganda poster The Great Criticism from the Cultural Revolution with popular Western commercial brands, such that the Chinese image surging in the waves of commercial economy revealed its impulse on political sensitivity and ideology, meanwhile echoing Wang’s Duchampian skepticism on art production.
A member of the “The Stars” group, in spite of not having received any academic training, Wang Keping’s “absurd sculptures”, especially the tortured composition in Silence was one of the most powerful works in “The Stars Art Exhibition”. Inspired by the Theater of the Absurd, and following the grains of the wood to shape his work, branches and knots on the wood were often adroitly transformed into the highlights of the work: a covered eye, a sealed mouth, along with the trace of the sculptor’s slanted mark constitute the artist’s primary visual icons, particularly, the torn face reveals an unrestrained audacity. His wooden sculptures are contentious to the system of censorship on the artworks and the exhibition system, as well as the corrupt dogmatism in China. Erupted through silence, a denouncement of the personality cult, conveying the anger and suffering of cultural suffocation of an absurd time, Wang’s unadorned yet incise sculptural language touches the souls of those yearning for freedom.
As one of the most important conceptual artists today, Wang Luyan has been proactively engaging in the movement of Chinese avant-garde art since its inception. He is a member of the “The Stars”, as well as “New Measurement Group” during the ’85 Art New Wave Movement. From 1988 to 1995, Wang has been fascinated with exploring the relationship between the ontology of art and the subjectivity of the artists. By eliminating the traces of the individual’s actions, and solely focusing on form, imagery and text became means of deconstruction. Touch Art transformed the material “touched” into spiritual object, which categorized the “sense of touch” independent of the physical body, where the “sense” of the physical body becomes an “intellectual” knowledge. “Touching” translates the objects into symbolic intellectual activities, where the sensible world is transferred into the rational world and becomes isolated from its ultimate goal to become “itself”, by which to engender cultural meaning. In the following decade, he has receded from public exhibitions by living independently, his drawings and writing became the mediums of his artistic thinking, accumulating large amount of conceptual resources and materials.
Wang Ziwei is one of the artists emerged from the wave of “Political Pop” at the beginning of the 1990s. A student of Yu Youhan, Wang has demonstrated exceptional and sophisticated painting skills since the early 1980s. From 1987, he began to adopt flat painting method as he adopted the image of Mao into his paintings, then adding various popular components of the west, by which to gesture towards the social contexts in contemporary China. The King and Queen in Poker are popular visual icons from the west, serving as an analogy of social conditions in contemporary China, such that, the protagonists’ attires, colors and facial expressions convey a strange atmosphere; the facial expressions of the King and Queen symbolize supreme power, while the same image shares a double face, underscores the disparity between media information on social issues and the unveiled truth. The image of the “King” and “Queen” each has an ambiguous aspect, and each represents the characteristics and relationships of those figures in the political ecology at the time. In the post “Political Pop” period, Wang developed a series of paintings inclined for conceptual “text”, from the semantics of the language to the attributes of the objects, and to the psychology of the viewer, building a knowledge structure that reconsiders art from form to meaning.
As one of the earliest artists to realize the essential crisis during the ’85 New Wave Art Movement, Wu Shanzhuan has created many experimental works that engaged the vernacular of pop art and games that fabricated false Chinese character, commentary on the semiotics and semantics of language, focusing on dismantling the confinements of institutionalization and ideologies. The series Red Humor launched in 1986, aimed to bridge the absurd memories of the past with present reality. The work consists of segments of the Cultural Revolution posters, where the basic colors of the posters are painted on paper, displaying an impressive yet confusing effect. Without making specific references, his humorous and satirical approach reflect on political issues. Transcendental juxtapositions, chaotic orders all point to the final conception of the work, opening up new possibilities to conceptual art in China. In the early 1990s, Wu moved to Europe, and since 2005, he has been living and working between China and Europe. His works continue to adopt satirical linguistic games, symbolism, absurd images while conveying serious and profound meanings.
Modularity, process, complexity and attributes of reprinting are the basic tenets of Xu Bing’s conceptual art. Book From The Sky (1987-1991) overthrew the cultural system and notion of text, marking a new tendency in the deconstruction of meaning in the post ’85 art movement. After his arrival in America in the early 1990s, Xu Bing began to question whether the communication between Eastern and Western culture was effective through the translation of languages. He adopted Eastern philosophies and cultures into his work, while thinking critically on language and other means of communication, the essence of art and culture, similarities and conflicts between objects and cultures. He proposed new ways of conversation and envisioned a dialogue of the East and West through his works. A Case Study of Transference set the space up into a pigsty. Prior to the exhibition, male and female pigs were carefully chosen to match their time of estrus. The work presents the fornication of male pigs tattooed with “book from the sky” in English and female pigs tattooed with “book from the earth” in Chinese. While the animalistic instinct shown under a mode of “culture production” in the name of “art”, the viewers were put under the awkward circumstance to discuss the “art”. This work satirizes the philosophical and conceptual approach of art, in the case of the most fundamental and insignificant phenomena of life, where does the boundary of art lay?
Contrary to making social commentaries with the means of Western avant-garde approach in Chinese contemporary art context, Yang Jiechang adopts the expressive quality of traditional ink painting and Daoist thoughts to reveal social and cultural powers embedded in the current state of global condition. Slaughter was censored due to its representation of the disaster of the Cultural Revolution, while marking his shift towards minimalistic renditions in his paintings. In 1989, Yang participated in the exhibition Magicien de la Terre with the work 100 Layers of Ink. He applied ink over and over on rice paper, and repeated the same process once the paper dried, over the period of a month The image displayed a layer of sheen from the coagulating agents in the ink, and the smooth surface creased into the form of mountains and rivers. This series continued for a decade, carrying forth a period of the artist’s practice which he considered the “useless” phase because “I didn’t know what I was doing, while still making something”. This process allowed the artist to wait for new inspirations, launching a transcendental phase in his work on material and spirit, self-emancipation and portrayal of universal love. His riveting techniques depicted inhuman absurdity and fear, whose effects matched the fear and excitement in Kant’s “Supremacy”.
In Yu Youhan’s painting of the abstract began in the mid-1980s, the “circle” in his image symbolize the multiple forms and self-regulated harmony of the dynamic world. The line techniques of ink painting, color blocks and infinite dots become pure aesthetic enjoyments in different orders and combinations. In the 1990s, Yu has participated in the wave of Political Pop, whose unique style in depicting the portrait of Mao showed playful contention to official ideology. Untitled, Mao seemed to have placed behind layers and layers of frames, that deconstructs and reconstructs the varying environment of a tumultuous period of history. As shown on the image, Yu has adopted an aesthetic methodology that has integrated and overthrown the seemingly dominant visual traditions, while lucidly portraying the political propaganda and social reality at the time. However, this was one of his “momentary exit” – soon after, he returned to making landscape paintings and abstraction, like his “circle”, in constant cycle, that marked the beginning and the end.
One of the first contemporary artists in China who had a concern in people’s livelihood, and one of the first to make graffiti on the street, Zhang Dali’s Dialogue series became known as early as the 1990s. Reality is a spiritual drive and resource in his art world. In Dialogue, the iconic head silhouette appropriating the artist’s own portrait appeared in selected locations amongst Beijing’s demolition sites. The artist then carved out the head shape on the wall, allowing the scenery to be seen through it and be documented. The sense of destruction and participation converge into the artist’s multiple and indispensible choices between the thought of the artist and the unstoppable urbanization of the city. Directed by Wu Wenguang, Bumming in Beijing represents the “renegade” youths from a different angle, including Zhang Dali of the 1980s, pursuing pure artistic ideals, and their seemingly optimistic yet awkward life experiences. Zhang has always adopted multiple mediums to explore ways of representing his subjects, and on the relationship between artistic medium with time and space, probing how art intervenes in reality, reflects and questions the issues created in the process of our cultural and social development. Of which, the audience may resonate sensually and mentally from the field he has created.
Zhang Huan who is known for conceptual performances and a member of the artists’ enclave at “Beijing East Village”. 12 Square Meters is the most literal reflection of living in East Village: 12 square meters marks the dimension of public toilet at the Beijing East Village. Zhang covered his body in fish oil and honey, sat at the center of the public toilet where the flies soon crawled over his entire body. In this process, Zhang tried to forget about reality, and allow his spirit to depart from his body. One hour later, he walked into a pond filled with trash and feces to “clean the body” as, thousands of flies followed him and swung above the water. The narrow public toilet and the relatively spacious water pond are metaphors for the dire circumstances and the living spaces of the artists. Of course, in spite of such circumstances, in order to live one nevertheless has to rely on his physical force and conscience to tolerate it. One’s spirit and physical body came in a tug of war, and in such conflict the complexity of the human condition becomes apparent. Lived and worked in New York for 8 years, Zhang concluded his performances, and founded an art studio in Shanghai in 2005, and uses leather, raw hide and the ashes from urban Buddhist temples to recreate these sculptures and figurations.
Zhang Peili is a core member of the ’85 Art New Wave Movement, a founding member of the ’85 New Space and Pond Society, whose painting conjured the fleeting yet condensing of sense of life. Imageries pursued an effect of indifference that revealed the artist’s understanding of reality as they projected the artist’s loneliness from within. Once Zhang abandoned the quest of reaching for the “metaphysical”, the first conceptual video work 30 x 30 was created in 1988, drawing a conclusion to the self-referential attitude of the artists in the ’85 Art New Wave Movement. The dreary imagery rejected any technical demand of the medium, but was aimed at mimicking the actual experience depicted, in order to avoid generating meaning beyond. A broadcaster of the national media reading the entry of “water” from the dictionary Cihai in standard mandarin, constituted the content of the video work, Water. The one button access to the state media’s standardized filming and production, symbolic of the power of the state, suggests an absurd reality devoid of any content in centralized state media.
An artist best known from the “New Figurative Image” in the ’85 Art New Wave Movement and a member of the “Southwest Artists Research Group”, Zhang Xiaogang endured loneliness enshrouded by death in his “phase confronting with the devil” upon graduating from the Sichuan Fine Arts Institute. Soon, he entered the phase of being “on the shore”, where religious motifs and iconic subject became the basis of his paintings. Wasteland series is an embodiment of that period, in which Zhang’s earlier artistic vernaculars of the surreal, his broad humanistic concerns and philosophical thinking were well represented. As the political upheaval unfolded in 1989, it urged him to “return to the world of the people”, henceforth, the various elements developed thereafter in his artistic itinerary began to formulate gradually. In 1994, Zhang created the Bloodline series based on the concept of “blood relationships,” when he had fully departed from the expressionism framework. The gray images convey an oppressed history, and the masks of the revolutionary period portraits provoke the collective memories of that particular period. It is also with this series he established unique aesthetic motifs that became a classical icon in the history of Chinese contemporary art.
Zhou Tiehai is considered “the most genuine conceptual artist” in China, his rebellious position to art since 1989 has added an audacious exploration on the boundary of contemporary art. Zhou Tiehai’s radical enthusiasm persistently translates an independent artist’s understanding on art, life and the world. His work Ten Years Ago from the 1980s, for example, a work was a collage of graffiti on old newspapers, satirical and frank. From 1994, he showed no qualms that his works of art are completed by his assistants under his guidance, conceptual proposals are challenging goals he had set as a conceptual artist, as well as displaying an attitude towards the art market closely associated with his own interest. He always voiced contentious “tones” to the development of contemporary Chinese art that delineates a parallel chronology vis-à-vis the development of contemporary art.
Aida Makoto worked to express Monument which contains complicated emotions that symbolize his own power through the use of corrugated cardboard, one of the cheapest materials available. We put meaning in the method of production while he worked together with those without any knowledge of art by sharing his methods instead of disintegrating the ranking between teachers and students. In doing this, he criticized the education system of art which can be controlled by an authority. This work which was created intermittently by changing places was exhibited for the first time outside Japan. Mixed with Monument like waste kept after their creation, these artworks will be kept for a long time in a warehouse where Aida’s works were stored amidst high humidity, fungi, cockroaches, and rats, all of which are the natural enemies of artworks.
Akasegawa Genpei was born in Yokohama in 1937 and grew up in Oita, Kyushu. He was a member of the group Neo Dadaism Organizers formed in 1960. By creating objects in the Assemblage style from leftover goods, wrapping objects found around him in wrapping paper, and copying and enlarging the one thousand yen note, he developed the most unique and radical means of expression among the trends of the anti-art movement. Along the way, he was accused of copying one thousand yen notes and he had to fight in the Supreme Court. He was found guilty at the “Trial of the One Thousand Yen Note” and moved his place of activity to the world of publishing, working in journalism and illustration. It was at this point that he started to express art in an unprecedented area he referred to as “Super-art.”
Chim↑Pom was founded by 6 members and belongs to the youngest generation in this exhibition. Chim↑Pom focused on the fact that the context surrounding Hiroshima which was difficult to reach a conclusion about lost flexibility as Japan became satisfied with its defeat with the passage of time. They attempted to intervene in various activities related to this problem, asking us about a new meaning of Hiroshima. Large amounts of paper cranes were sent to Hiroshima from all over the world in admiration of the spirit of the Hiroshima victims. Hiroshima City has yet to destroy them and has kept them for a long time. Chim↑Pom has used them actively in their works.
Enoki Chu has been regularly performing avant-garde art in Kobe since he first moved to the city at 16 years old. He worked on numerous installation artworks to protect himself. These works were based on poisonous materials such as nuclear bombs and dioxin. However in 1995 the Great Hanshin Earthquake led him to witness the destruction of the city where he lived with his own eyes. Following this event, he released installation art that did not pertain to either the city or weapons. He used the iron from his surroundings that was left over from when he made a living as a lathe worker and these works amounted to several tons of weight. These installation artworks will be exhibited at the Busan Biennale Exhibition. The materials used their production can be said to repeat endless change and proliferation without limitations to their fixed shape.
The starting point of Hori Kosai’s art activities can be traced back to his performance titled Self Burial Ceremony performed on Ginja street in Tokyo after he entered Tama Art College in 1967. In July 1969 he formed the Artists Joint Struggle Academy with other like-minded students and served as chairman of a political struggle group for students of art colleges under the slogan “Create Cultural Ruins!” By facing a canvas and supporting roll or a new wall going up unlimitedly, this artwork in this exhibition attempts to show that attracting people beyond a generation, place, and time continues and exists as an endless revolution. His saying on a defiant leaflet reading “If you are called an artist now, the place will be a battlefield” has continued till today.
Kikuhata Mokuma lost his parents and remained homeless as he moved from one place to another. At a young age he taught himself how to paint and became quite good at it. He stood out as a member of the Kyushu Group, an avant-garde group formed in Fukuoka City in 1957. In the 1960s Kikuhata Mokuma released controversial artworks that escaped from the typical form of art in Tokyo and attracted attention as the leader of anti-art. However as Slave Genealogy released at that time shows, Kikuhata’s expression of anti-modern aspects based on folksy elements rather than avant-garde characteristics was not suitable to either Kyushu Group with its nature of Informel painting or radicalism in Japan.
Nakahara Kodai retains an important position as the existence connecting and at the same time stressing the difference between the old generation and new generation surrounding the consciousness of avant-garde in the arts in Japan following the war. Nakahara started to recover the bold colors of Mono (meaning “objects” in Japanese) and the vague expression for distinguishing whether to have shape on the borderline was addressed skillfully through various subjects regardless of sculpture and paintings. Assembled with Lego blocks, Nakahara’s work figuratively connects the flow to the past however it has an element unlike Post Mono-ha in that the original image is totally different. Viewers also get the same impression from connected simulations represented by Murakami Takashi and Aida Makoto that appeared later.
Shortly after Japan was defeated, masters of artistic circles returned to painting trends from before the war without a second thought. During this time, Okamoto Taro appeared like a time-slip in another world and presented a painting style that was aligned with ugly but humorous animals that resembled animated characters. The Rules of the Forest was inspired by his father, Okamoto Ippei who was Japanese representative cartoonist. At that time, a cartoon was ranked lowly as a means of expression that was beneath painting. Ippei drew cartoons for kids like Taro, causing him to grow up with his own feelings that ran parallel amongst the two areas as a source without prejudice that told stories of excellence in Taro’s heart.
Japan's representative performance artist of today, Orimoto Tatsumi, came across the lingering image of Fluxus, the happenings in New York, and became influenced by them while staying in New York for a long stretch of time, 1971. His work, Execution, will be projected onto a screen which happened in 1579. In this work, the same number of guillotines were used to execute 26 Christian martyrs subject to crucifixion in Nagasaki according to Toyatomi Hideyoshi's orders in Japan, this device was used around the world Today the baguette, a French bread which has become a part of our life, used to be a political symbol representing the body of Christ in Christian churches. Though it was new to East Asia, after the area of exploration and a bloody history surrounding colonial propaganda and ruthless suppression it has come to have the meaning it does today. He is asking this question once again.
Shinohara was born in Tokyo in 1932. In the 1960s he contributed to the formation of the group Neo Dadaism Organizers and participated in the activities of the artistic circles surrounding the center of the White House designed by Isozaki Shin. As a result he became well known in Japan. To Shinohara, avant-garde art probably focuses on how he reproduces and applies existing avant-garde art in the copied media which has lost its effect as new media emerges. Shinohara actively used a method of copying which some might think of as plagiarism and used fluorescent paints which could come off as cheap and unrefined. Against this backdrop, Shinohara can be recognized as an artist who was the first to practice pop-art in Japan.
Suzuki Yoshinori was born in Shimizu City, Shizuoka Prefecture in 1936 and served as a member of Gensoku (Tactile Hallucination) Group that was formed in Shizuoka in 1966 under the influence of art critic Ishiko Junzo. In addition, Suzuki used the image of a masterpiece to represent the history of art as a data base that can be edited and consumed for his works following the interpretation of immateriality in the image of the piece. In addition, he presented the fact that as painting has three-dimensional nature as a subject, there was a face and back to his artworks. The fact that the historic meaning of Genshoku was more than the simple role of Pre-Mono-ha will be proven through the possibilities presented by Suzuki’s activities which need to be examined today.
Tanaka is regarded as one of the artists who represented Gutai Art, also known as the trend of avant-garde arts in Japan in the 1950s. Regardless of the activities in the group he has announced his own unique expression for his life. . Tanaka’s interests are focused on power and the circuit that controls it, or in other words, the circulation of the current operated beyond the power of humans. Tanaka’s paintings are connected to another vortex through the medium of paint and the movement of the vortex is controlled by a circuit on the device that turns the light or current on and off through electricity in the form of a plane.
Yanagi Yukinori became known to the world after releasing artworks which showed an escape from the typical concept of sculpture in the mid-1980s. His works using neon tubes and electricity that were released in the early 1990s show him as being a pioneer. The work released afterwards expressed that Article 9 in Japan’s Constitution which promises to give up war and which was enacted during the occupation of Japan has disintegrated but is still narrowly supported by electric power. This artwork was released in 1994, a year before the Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake, but the accident concerning the nuclear power plant which was caused by the magnitude 7 Tohoku Earthquake, the largest in history, seems to reflect the reality of becoming exposed to radiation once again.
Choi Byung-So was the key member of the Daegu Contemporary Art Festival (1974-1987). His work has involved making erasures from the newspaper with pencils and black ballpen since the 1970s. His erasing is an act going beyond the activity of erasing and covering media. Choi Byungso's accumulated monochrome activity contains the critical spirit of reality. This critical erasing of media is to realize an intangible world going beyond the superficial criticism of reality.
Ha Chong-Hyun appeared in the art circle with works following the trend of Informel and then escaped from the painting trends in the late 1960s and changed to structured abstract art. He expressed the phases of time or his status through work using a rope of a wooden box or work tying a canvas at a scheduled time with barbed net. Obsession with objects and the nature of material and handiwork shown in the abstract structure has led to the Painting as plane objects of today. In other words, the expression of material and paint pushed outside by painting on the other side of rough sagging clothes reminds us of the language of saturation, closeness, silence, and suppression.
The works of Ha Yong-Sok are a series of challenges to existing methods of existence and aesthetics. The subject of continuous change and experimentation as the object of life and art he set are not a waste of life, junk, disgusting animals, or his excretion, but himself. All the articles including junk installed in the exhibition hall are only replacement of daily life, reality and consciously made visual catharsis.
Hong Myung-Seop was obsessed with sculptural work in different contexts going beyond the existing concept of sculpture based on mass and specified space. He was interested in work in a new area which cannot be specified. He set the concepts of shadowless, artless, and mindless in his works and experimented with expression going beyond existing art concepts. <de-veloping /en-veloping ; level casting>, <will & unwill gesture ; waterfall> also attempt to escape consistently to be differently expressed from the modernism in the existing formalism after the mid-1980s with totally different context.
Jung Bok-Su worked in the so-called Peoples Art in the mid-1980s but realized Painting on the Floor to express the inner desire of humans and escape from an authoritative aura. Jung Bok-Su attempted the Painting on the Floor to draw the living human world. The Painting on the Floor expresses human desire and is a complaint against absolute sublimity of ceiling painting or murals. In addition, it presents the floor painting as a site to communicate among people by removing the aura of traditional painting.
Jung Kang-Ja was a member of the Korean Young Artists Association Exhibition and The Fourth Group as well as a member of New Exhibition Coterie. Transparent and Nudity (May 20, 1968) was the first nude performance in Korea. It was performed in C'est Si Bon music cafe in Mukyodong, which was the center of youth culture. Inside, as the avant-garde music of John Cage playing, the audience could attach a transparent balloon to the naked body and burst it. This participation-type performance was meant to break men's sensual interpretation of the female body. This project showed the feminist argument to challenge a man-centered world and values, which has significance in the history of the arts. This performance shows the situation of a happening documented in pictures by Jung Kang-Ja.
As a member of the social groups of Nonkkol and New Exhibition, Kang Kuk-Jin exhibited Plastic Bag Emitting Colored Water in the form of a performance on the opening day of the Korean Young Artists Association Exhibition in 1967. It was exhibited three days before Incident with a Plastic Umbrella and Candlelight which was the first group effort of its kind in Korea. He attempted to “create artworks in daily life” with everyday supplies in Joy in Vision by utilizing waste materials like other Western-style works at the time. In addition, he lent urban emotion to his works through the use of neon lights and other materials. He sought after avant-garde works that could criticize civilization and reality which could not be contained on canvas through his initial performance art pieces such as Murder on the Bank of the Han River in 1968, Transparent Balloon and Nudity, and Feast with Colored Vinyl.
Kim Dong-Kyu graduated from the arts department at the Busan National University of Education and served as a member of the Hyuck coterie in Busan from 1963 to 1975. In Light Column by the artist who has led the contemporary art scene in Busan, clothes are hung from the ceiling in the form of a column with the lower portion soaking in a bowl filled with aqueous ink. Over time ink of various colors are absorbed into the column of clothes. The method of using the technique of traditional dying and the process coming from the nature of the materials is differentiated from the method of modernism. Kim Dong-Kyu attempted to create works that took advantage of natural phenomenon while seeking the beauty and joy found in the contemporary arts through the passage of time and changes in materials according to the change and native beauty of primary colors.
Kim Jang-Sup worked as a member of the Independent Exhibition, the Daegu Contemporary Arts Festival, the Seoul Contemporary Arts Festival, Ecole de Seoul, and ST Group. "Most natural materials or materials made of primary industrial products are built or aligned in a structure that occupies a consistent amount of space and are covered with masses of paint that are tough to the touch. This fact is dealt with in the visualization of feeling experienced with the appearance of an object that is used in works and at the same time the order in which the materials are built is controlled by visual order.
Through a study as a writer, my constitution and emotional characteristics have caused me to stick to this type of work up until a recent date. It is my intention to maximize the experience of being conscious of the object by covering paint through the activities of the objects and materials".
Kim Jong-Kun participated in the Busan Contemporary Artists Exhibition (1967) and the Subsequent Arts Exhibition (1968) led by the contemporary arts movement in Busan as a member of the Hyuck coterie from 1962. The initial works of Kim Jong-Kun sought after an absolute shape of monochrome that was extremely simple compared to the shapes of objects. From late 1960 he changed to creating works that involved setting fire directly to a screen on which he excluded shapes and colors. Known as the “artist of flame,” he has worked in the arts catching the soot of fire by joining candlelight and matches. He has shown an inclination to embody an intangible essence and original shapes through fire and air, the two basic elements of the universe. His work dealing with flames is a painting with monochrome that acts as a study on the origin of the invisible universe rather than the aesthetics of materials while investigating the essence of painting as a material or plane in which he manages to express a natural view of the world.
Kim Ku-Lim was born in Daegu and resisted the established education system offered in universities. He began to produce lyrical abstract works in late 1960s and joined an art circle. He produced the first experimental film in Korea, Meaning of 1/24 Seconds (1969), and released From Phenomenon to Trace (1970), the first land art. Korea’s first experimental film Meaning of 1/24 Seconds contains a glimpse of a society in the process of industrialization and urbanization in the late 1960s through intermittent video clips. From Phenomenon to Trace recorded in land art showed a fire being set on a water bank which left behind traces in a geometric pattern. It was the first work of its kind in Korea that returned to nature in accordance with the passage of time. From Phenomenon to Trace was a work that elevated jwibulnori, a traditional Korean game involving fire, into the contemporary arts. Creating omnidirectional works as a member of the The Fourth Group in 1970 before moving to Japan, Kim Ku-Lim worked in the genre of conceptual arts where he broke down the concept of reality and virtual reality by painting traces of daily objects in the middle of 1970.
Through The Spearhead of the Korean Contemporary Art and Exodus Exhibition planned by Metavox Group in 1986 Kim Sung-Bae’s works were introduced to the central artist group. He was able to enter the arts circle through the Youth Artists Biennale of the National Museum of Contemporary Art Center in 1987. The artwork Haha Pine Tree was exhibited at the Youth Artists Biennale at the National Museum of Contemporary Art in 1987. It was installed in an ellipse shape that symbolizes the meaning of the universe by connecting trees cut from Mt. Paldal in Suwon. It is not clear whether the ellipse shape was connected geometrically but the shape constructed of pine trees has the meaning of art in a language connected to the sky, land, and humans.
Kim Young-Jin created works for the Daegu Contemporary Arts Festival and the Independent Exhibition and participated in Ecole de Seoul from 1979 to 1982. He hosted five solo exhibitions including the exhibition of Space 129 in 2002. He worked as a major artist in the Daegu contemporary arts circle and along with three other artists (Park Hyun-Ki, Lee Gangso, and Choi Byung-So) produced video artworks in Studio K in Daegu in 1978. He has consistently produced artworks related to his identity, existence, and death like the piece in which he wore a plaster cast on part of his body or when he created traces of his body by touching glass.
Lee Kang-So's search for an expressive form capable of communicating the essence of contemporary life began in the 1970s with a series of pioneering painting, print, photograph, drawing, installation, objects, sculpture, performance, and video. For his first solo exhibition in Seoul in 1973 he turned the gallery into a temporary bar for a week; at the 1975 Paris Biennale he covered the floor with plaster powder and presented a single, live chicken tied to a stake at its centre so that it created traces. Incompleteness and the anticipation of an event are recurring themes that Lee extends to painting, which, while dominant in his practice since 1985, is diversified through an emphasis on process and procedure, and the conscious invitation of spontaneity and coincidence.
Lee Kun-Young conducted his art activities using wood, soil, rope, clothes in nature, and his body and then introduced double meaning with interest in communication with others and the world and language through photos, drawing, and linguistic activities. He made a contribution to experimental development in various genres ranging from event, performance, installation to drawing. Physical object and place have been an important theme in his works. By resisting sudden happenings and hosting the "event" realized through logical activities, he has brought the results of research on analytic philosophy and Laozi Zhuangzi thought into his works.
Lee Seung-Taek’s experimental works had an unrivalled avant-garde status in the art circles of Korea from the 1960s to the 1970s. The initial works of Lee Seung-Taek with his anti-concept of non-sculpture used non-typical materials like wind, water, and fire and more typical materials such as stone but escaped from the nature of materials. In addition, his unique method was to reinterpret traditional subjects such as shamanism or borrow from daily life, creating conditions rather than shapes. Wind-folklore, Ignited Canvas Washed Away in the Stream, Paper Tree, and Tied Stone are his initial works. The concept of intervention borrowed in his works from nature or daily situations can be understood as the modern transformation of appropriative landscape which is a traditional concept.
Park Hyun-Ki was a member of the Daegu Contemporary Arts Festival and was regarded as the first artist and pioneer of media art in the video art genre in Korea. Park Hyun-Ki’s initial works include Untitled TV Stone Tower and Untitled TV Fish Tank produced in 1979. TV monitors were set up as part of a stone tower and displayed images of stones that were to be added to the stone tower while the other contained an image of fish swimming in a fish tank. A TV monitor is objet and has duplicity as an image connected to the environment. He created various artworks to search for the presence of reality and virtual reality by consistently connecting objects and video images to the materials of fundamental elements such as water, stone, and fire. He expressed traditional philosophy with modern works through the use of traditional materials like stone towers and mandalas.
Park Suk-Won won awards at the National Exhibition six times in a row in his twenties and was awarded Chairman of the National Assembly which contributed to the status of abstract sculpture in the conservative National Exhibition. Park Suk-Won participated in the avant-garde AG Group as a sculptor of experimental abstract sculpture who went on to enter his three-dimensional works into the Paris Biennale and Sao Paulo Biennale. His work Handle manages to escape from everyday life by expanding the daily act of opening and closing doors. Through his initial three-dimensional works he shaped his interest in spaces, objects, and environmental elements. 4 Shadows, his initial installation work, uses clothes and wood to raises questions about the absolute location and status of a space or object by drawing shadows made by pieces of wood onto the clothes themselves. These shadows appear in different directions on screen.
Shin Young-Seong started work as a member of <nanjido> Coterie in 1985. He has been interested in works dreaming of the recovery of humanity by pointing out structural contradiction in modern society. Shin Young-Seong became disillusioned with the culture of scientific technology where humans are reduced to machine and can be standardized. He was disappointed with the contradiction and irrationality of culture and how life on the earth is sequenced and categorized as good and devil. In 1985, he destroyed objects such as a clock and a fan with a hammer, an electric saw, and fire. The clock lost its function and was destroyed. The fan's shape was distorted like the appearance of lifeless people. This act of destruction symbolized people who are isolated and dumped without any dignity.
Sung Neung-Kyoung began working as an artist with his start at the Korea Contemporary Artists Invitation Exhibition in 1968 and the second ST exhibition. Sung Neung-Kyoung’s initial works in which he cut out newspaper articles with razors present a strong critical spirit and conceptual ideas. Based on his interest in linguistics and semiotics, he rejected the language of newspapers concerned with daily life and events and showed a resistance to an authoritative system which forms dominant information and discussions into the media. Newspapers; From June 1, 1974 On is one of his representative works. In this work articles were cut out and placed inside a plastic box whereupon he repeated the process of pasting the cut newspaper articles to a wall in order to accuse the media of fabricating facts, resisting them with all of his being.
Yook Keun-Byung was a member of TARA Group and made video experiments including sculpture and objects in earnest. The shape of one eye shown on a small monitor, in a grave covered with soil is his representative work of art. Various interpretations are followed such as eyes as that take a look at the next house through a hole when young, eyes in the arts, eyes of reason contrasted with emotion, and eyes facing history. The world took a look at the issue of life and death through video art earlier than Korea. The eye of grave by Yook Keun-Byung certainly takes a look at what is conveyed from the distant past in the consciousness though the shot is in the memory or not experience by ourselves.
<funeral for the established culture>
In this film the street performance attempted by The Fourth Group on August 15, 1970 is reenacted through the research of artists Kim Ku-Lim, Consul of The Fourth Group for 44 years. The Fourth Group recited a declaration with four clauses to overcome the contradictions and damage of the established culture. This event was stopped for the crime of interrupting traffic with a street demonstration in the form of a funeral procession for the established culture. The event became the reason for disbanding the organization after Kim Ku-Lim was accused of disturbing the peace. Due to this, The Fourth Group launched in June 1970 faded into the mists of history after only two months of activity.
<happening with plastic umbrella and candlelight>
The Korean Young Artists Association Exhibition with three coteries of None, New Exhibition and Origin were hosted in the gallery of the National Promotion Center from December 11 to 16, 1967. This exhibition featured paintings escaping the abstract trend and 3 dimensional works other than geometric abstract works of Origin. During the exhibition, Happening with Plastic Umbrella and Candlelight processed by members of None Coterie, and New Exhibition Coterie was based on critique of Oh Gwangsu. Going round and singing the song "Bird, bird, blue bird" symbolizing the Donghak renovation with an umbrella as a symbol of a nuclear cloud, candlelight was put into a plastic umbrella and the umbrella was torn down in the end. This happening is remembered as an expression of social renovation by connecting the candlelight and Donghak song with the symbol of the human spirit.