[-empyre-] without fear or/of favor

Johannes Birringer Johannes.Birringer at brunel.ac.uk
Fri Nov 19 02:49:16 EST 2010

dear all:

thanks Edward for your reply to my impressions on 798, and your very helpful additional comments and explanations. I am sorry to learn of the "gentrification" of 798 but perhaps that was, sadly, inevitable, even if one might look at other scenarios (I am thinking of Metelkova in Ljubljana, after the collapse of socialism) where occupation of a site by alternative groups generated its own dynamic and power.

Now Li Zhenhua asks why I brought up a documentary film on Ai WeiWei shown in Britain, and what it has to do with media arts.

I felt inspired to do so for two reasons.  First, i think installations or (fake) site specific or immersive art works using media attention to create/perform event-character have much to do with media arts and new media arts dispersive or generative strategies and links to social networks and the internet, and of course film and news media and blogs contribute to the happening and the discourse of the event.  I saw the release of the documentary as part of the artist's and the curators' and promoters'  media arts strategy, and thus part of the common promotional discourse with which contemporary art (whether paintings of the Cultural Revolution or, say, Wu Meng’s “Gravity” series based on earlier performances) dresses itself up.

Furthermore, i thought Rebecca Catching's posting on the complications surrounding her exhibition "Shifting Definitions" was stunningly revealing of many aspects, and more, that came up or did not come up in this month's discussion.
The issue of censorship needed addressing, and issues of gender bias, sexuality,  and xenophobia probably are forbiddingly complex but also necessary for a fuller, critical debate on the formation of new media arts practices, the discourse, and the curatorial challenges. 

Isaac leung stated that "if we look at formation of new media art practices, it is impossible not to see the various institutional mediations that shape the knowledge and logic of what “new media” is to be.  The discourse of new media can hardly be solely tied to the subject itself; rather, the subject of new media is inevitably a social construction.".....   One couldn't agree more,  and I am thankful to Rebecca for describing in such detail the counter surveillance or counter-interventionist tactics deployed at and via her gallery and the exhibition  (for example the beautiful example of the "digital copy" that was confiscated or the "passing around of performances" via small hand held video player devices....).

The mobility and these various dissemination strategies raise many questions, at the same time, not least to the the curatorial thinking on art, media, performance, networks, today. 

The disappointing side of the "Without Fear or Favor" was its complete lack of a critical approach to its material and an inability or unwillingness to look more carefully into contexts;  for example, it briefly mentions Ai's involvement in the so-called notorious 2000 "Uncooperative Approach" exhibition held during the Shanghai Biennial.  I remember how the black catalogue, titled "Fuck Off,"  was sold under the table in a bookstore in 798, as if it was a forbidden or underground cult object, and the documentary makes the tiniest of quick allusions to the Zhu Yu performance of "Eating People,"  except that this was not a performance but a series of photographs.

I would, on the whole, be really interested in hearing more on the relationship between performance / live art and media arts in China and how younger generation media and performance artists situate themselves toward their audiences, who are the audiences, who sees such performances or gets a video monitor or ipad passed around to?  and - to come back to Isaac leung, how does one avoid the East/West trappings ----  as you say:"Many discourses concerning contemporary Chinese art are based on the premise of polarized East/West aesthetic values that tends to pander to the knowledge and logics of the art centers in the West.  These common conceptualizations imply that the trajectory of art within China is operated in a monolithic and unidirectional way, that is to say, from the West to East" ----    but what about the diaspora, the many Chinese artists who have gone to other places?

Johannes Birringer

_______>Li zhenhua schrieb: 

I am wondering what this to do with the media art issue?!

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