Urban Dictionary II: Streetwise of the Humbles
City: Guangzhou
Curator: Duan Jun
Academic Presider: Pi Daojian
Duration: 2017-12-02 ~ 2018-02-13
Opening: 2017.12.02 4:30 PM
Venue: 33 Contemporary Art Center
Address: 33/F, Tower A, Victory Plaza, 103 Tiyu West Road, Guangzhou
Participating Artist(s): Li Zhanyang、Song Yonghong、Wang Sishun、Wu Tao、Xia Guo、Xu Bacheng、Ying Ping、Yu Xuan、Zhan Wang、Zhang Dali、Zhong Biao(in alphabetical order)

Producer: Liu Yi

Art Director: Li Tingchen

Speakers: Jia Fangzhou、Li Bangyao、Hu Zhen、Sheng Wei、Shen Ruijun、Duan Jun、Yan Yong/ Li Tingchen


This exhibition is titled “Streetwise of the Humbles” which refers generally to the grass roots that earn a living in the streets and specifically to unlicensed street vendors today. Such street vendors actually bear remarkable resemblance to the contemporary Chinese artists in earlier years, particularly the avant-garde artists in the late 1980s and early 1990s who are often called vagrant artists as well for their similar social status to that of peddlers as they either quitted their permanent jobs in public or governmental institutions or have never worked in any such institutions. While peddlers or street vendors, typical victims of social management in the process of urbanization, are associated with such problems as poor hygiene, disorganization, inferior quality, tax evasion, lack of integrity, disruption of market order and defacement of cityscape, they have actually become part of and therefore enriched the urban life by nourishing vibrant community cultures.

The subtitle of this exhibition is “Shi-jing”(street and marketplaces in Chinese), which refers generally to streets or urban communities with spontaneous and dynamic culture and art that is also unruly to some extent. As the centerpiece of popular art, shijing culture also harbors filth and shelters evil, which is particularly true with the Chinese “shijing” where interpersonal relations are permeated by unhealthy factors including deception, hypocrisy, betrayal, dishonesty and double-dealing. However, contemporary art does not seek to avoid the filth of the “Shijing” as such; quite the contrary, it vigorously reveals and reviews the dark sides of the society today.

As a matter of fact, the practice of contemporary art, be it in painting, photography, video or performance, in the 1990s, has been fruitful in dealing with the issue of Chinese urbanization, a process driven by the sweeping market-oriented economic reform following Deng Xiaoping’s historic tour to South China and by the irresistible trend of globalization. Urbanization may be a declining topic for contemporary art, but it is still worth further exploration. Within the context of continuously accelerating urbanization today, adopting different perspectives and artistic forms is all it takes to deepen the query over this long-standing issue.


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[Editor] 张艳

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