The image is laid out to reflect the turning points in the emergence of art museums in China in the period of 1979-1991, in the wake of Chairman Mao’s toppling of power.
Arts ‘purpose’ can be chronologically ordered in the following:
- Art as a nation building form, which takes form typically as propaganda or socialist realism (Big Character posters/ Scar Art)
- The emergence of state criticality following Chairman Mao’s death (Western externally influenced work as illustrated by the Stars Group)
- Self organising structures that form as a result of market reforms. Post industrial rehabilitation of the 798 art district as propelled in part by cheap rent.
The ordering of the collage focusses the foreground as the point of formation for the Stars group. Contemporary art of the late 70s was born out of the Yuanmingyuan summer palace- the old Observatory of World cultures (bottom right). Ruins are of a Western Predisposition. Primarily because these Ruins were designed by an Italian Jesuit by the name of Giuseppe Castligione. The building was to house Western gifts at a time when the Chinese Empire was at its strongest.
The building was destroyed by British forces in a dramatic show of aggression during the early phase of the Opium Wars. Much of the collection was burnt to the ground.
The transformation of the Boundary condition into a linear viewing gallery coincides with the Beijing Spring. However this is predicated to a large extent on the Xiamen Democracy wall- a place where public criticism of the State was allowed. Prior to this, the big character posters carried out by China’s Red Guard that aimed to name and shame anti-Maoist counter revolutionaries. So prolific was this act that it began to threaten the order of the era. To the point that big character posting was relegated from a patriotic behaviour to an offence that would itself result re-education in the countryside. Many of the Stars members either acted as red guards or at the very least were subject to the endemic paranoia that had befallen the Chinese.
In actuality the external postings of the No U-Turn Art pieces were designed to hang off the building as propaganda posters once did. This was disallowed by NAMOC.
Down the centre Isle is a homage to the Xiamen Dada- an art movement that responded to Rauschenberg’s visit in the mid 80s. An argument linking Confucianism and Dada as a similar basis is something of interest. Primarily the idea that Art need not be housed within the Institution- or perhaps rather that the institution of art does not take place in designated gallery spaces. Instead it emerges through coincidence, life, and happenings. The art institution is not housed in the built environment- It is embedded in behaviour.
Following the Tiananmen Square Incident, during the next decade, Chinese Contemporary art is crushed. Typically art in this era is exhibited in basements, apartments, and ambassador’s homes. Documentation of this underground art is difficult to come by, presumably because it is considered to be counter revolutionary at this time. However one such exhibition is documented by the now closed Shuimi art gallery.
This exhibition was redrawn in the back left section of the drawing. It marks the Apartment art exhibition as a re-enactment of the art institute of the time, however it is also a retrospective that takes form in the 798 district. By this point, the selling of cultural relics, is an act that is now legal and coincides with the economic reforms that have lead up to a modern China that understands and increasingly conforms to market capitalism.