Body Art: New Photography from China
Featuring the work of Cang Xin, Huang Yan, Li Wei, Liu Ren, Ma Yanling, and Wu Yuren.
This compelling exhibit features the work of artists who use the human body as an entirely new art language. Some pieces, with the aid of digital imaging, illustrate a world that only exists within the artist's imagination. Others, based on performance work where the artist uses his body as the central artistic agent, explore realities of China's complex contemporary society. Some photos are humorous, others disconcerting, but all are fascinating reflections of life in China today.
HUANG YAN: TRANSITORY TATTOOS
Tattooing is one of the world's oldest forms of body art. Often designs that are tattooed into the skin or painted onto the body are specific to a certain event, or are used to mark a particular occasion. Huang Yan's temporary transformations allow the artist to create a variety visions incorporating man and nature in his Chinese Landscape-Tattoo series and The Four Seasons series.
CANG XIN: A BODY OF EXPERIENCE
In the photo series Experiences of the Tongue, the artist featured the Tibetan ceremonial tradition of prostration by using his tongue to savor the flavor of objects and sites that represent Chinese culture, such as the Great Wall and Tiananmen Square. In Identity Exchange Cang Xin is photographed next to people who are different from himself clothed in apparel that indicates their identity and social status in Chinese society.
LIU REN: FANCIFUL FANTASIES
The youngest of this exhibit's artists, at just 27 years of age, Liu Ren recently completed Masters degrees in both photography and digital media at the Central Academy of Fine Art in Beijing. Like her fellow students, Liu grew up in the age of computers, video games, and digital images, and this influence is reflected in her work. By using advanced software she creates dream-like worlds based upon a mix of her own memories as well as modern China.
MA YANLING: BOUND BODIES
Ma Yanling photo series Silk Ribbons beautifully, but graphically, explore women's status in Chinese society today. All photos feature women bound with silk ribbon, while other female images are featured as decorative accessories in a store to be selected and then purchased. But all the subjects' faces and personalities are hidden from view, leaving only beautiful, but empty shells.
LI WEI: THE CHINESE EVIL KNIEVEL
Originally a self-taught oil painter, in 1999 Li Wei put down his paintbrush to produce performance-based works that are both unsettling and, at times, comic in their deadpan delivery. The social context of his work reflects unease with China's urban environment, as well as a world in which happiness, work, love affairs, hope, adventure, and disappointment all impact him and his contemporaries.
WU YUREN: POLITICAL DISOBEDIENCE
In the An Imperial Criminal (2001) series, Wu features six passport-like, blue-tinted photographs of people with fluorescent brands stamped onto their foreheads. Based on the actual practice of branding criminal in ancient China—which is, by naming their offenses for all to see—Wu's modern-day versions of each individual crime is exposed only when the brand is placed under ultra-violet light. Although the general public is often unaware of who has offended one of the extensive array of Chinese laws, including computer hacking, prostitution, and promoting tenants of the Falungong, the offender's transgressions are always perceptible to the ever- vigilant Chinese government.
[Editor] Zhang Shuo