A Belated Spring in Beijing Art Scene: On Demolition of Art Districts and CCD Photo Spring
Source:Art.es Author:Zhangfang Date: 2010-07-21 Size:
The world witnesses drastic modernization transformation in China over the last three decades with its economy skyrocketing in two digits and urban planning program churning out immense skylines. Beijing epitomizes these upsurges with gigantic billboards, eight-lane boulevards, speed trains, high rises of stunning glass windows and glaring neon lights, which baffles its first time visitors. What is this place in our planet?

 

Caochangdi Art District, Beijing. 2010

The world witnesses drastic modernization transformation in China over the last three decades with its economy skyrocketing in two digits and urban planning program churning out immense skylines. Beijing epitomizes these upsurges with gigantic billboards, eight-lane boulevards, speed trains, high rises of stunning glass windows and glaring neon lights, which baffles its first time visitors. What is this place in our planet?

After re-launching its reform agenda at the beginning of 1990s, Beijing allures tens of thousands professional artists to move here. Like other vibrant global cities, Beijing shares the same problems, including living space scarcity, transportation congestion, environmental degradation, financial volatility and political repression. However the cultural diversity and chaotic social realities feed inspirations to artists’ creativity which enlivens the art scene in Beijing, now the center of contemporary art.

In March 2010, the China Communist Party convention put forward a “poignant” urbanization program to inject stimuli for boosting its economy. Under this policy, the already hyped-up real estate market becomes the most viable business for meeting this internal-need strategy. Applying to suburban villages, the policy of integrating urban and rural areas designates large plots of farm land on the outskirts off the fifth ring road bordering on Beijing Airport Expressway to be evacuated for future national reserve of other purposes.

What does this integration policy mean? It means dislocation of art professionals in art districts spreading from Suojia Village, Feijia Village, Beigao, Zhengyang, 008 Factory, Dongying, Caochangdi (CCD) and Heiqiao. It means more than one hundred galleries and one thousand artists will be affected. In a sarcastic and witty mood, Wu Xiaowu, a young graduate from Tianjin Academy of Fine Arts, dispels this pompous might of eviction in Yao 11, a combination of seventy-two Polaroids by dissecting and stitching the iconic polo shirt of Yao Ming. Yao is an icon for powerful China who serves for Rockets, NBA league.

 

Michael Biedowicz.1989 - 365 Art Days in China and Germany. East Berlin. 1989, courtesy of Thinking Hands

Though it is already April, the temperature in Beijing still oscillates between zero and ten degrees of Celsius. Spring comes really late this year which extends the agony of artists who were devastated to leave their studios in the past harsh winter. Under this policy, the previous agreements signed between artists and landlords that guarantee either a short-term or long-term lease become invalid. Because most constructions by local owners are illegal, artists may be forced to leave without compensation even though they spend a great sum of money into renovating hangar-like studios and work out the harsh situations of heating, water and power supplies.

Since last October, artists in the art districts have showed great solidarity to combat this crazy inhuman demolition under the banner “enduring this cold winter of market downturn and violent eviction in unity”. The first reaction started in active and artistic manners, organizing exhibitions of open studios, putting on installations/performances and promoting a sport contest for bodybuilding, and etc. To protect legitimate rights, artists submit signed letters to authorities asking for keeping the art scene contact or granting reasonable compensation. Meanwhile, they safeguard studios overnight on shifts to prevent from sudden menace of bulldozers and hooligans by generating power supply.

On Feb.22, 2010 the most ferocious confrontation occurred in 008 Factory. Four Chinese artists and one Japanese artist were beaten, banded with stitches on their heads and arms. Eight artists braved a demonstration holding a banner asking for arresting the violence abusers on Chang an Avenue. Due to artists’ justifiable request, the local government agreed to grant artists time to move and compensate with seven million RMB.

Violence subsided. Art comes back. From April 17th through 22nd 2010, galleries in CCD join efforts in the first edition of Photo Spring, three-year collaboration between China and France. Less than one acre land, CCD has flourished into a vibrant artistic hub since 2000 with international galleries, institutions and studios. The founders of Photo Spring are Rong Rong & Inri, directors of Three Shadows Photography Art Centre which opened in June 2007, and Bérénice Angremy, director of Thinking Hands which started in 2004. Bérénice is brimmed with excitement, “Like the art hub 798 in former Bauhaus munitions complex, CCD will showcase a mixture of world-wide contemporary art, beneficial to all including local residents composed of people of all walks of life. We want to avert this rampant eviction by convincing the power elite that art is the most essential element of human civilization. Irrational dislocation of art districts is devastating to art community, both financially and psychologically.”

During this opening week of festivities, partnering galleries in CCD will showcase artists like Pierre Gonnord, Nobuyoshi Araki, Roland Fischer, Lucien Clergue as well as Chinese artists such as Chi Lei, Chi Peng, Han Lei, Cai Weidong, and etc. The highlight will be featuring the announcement of the 2010 Three Shadows Photography Award winner and the presentation of 2009 Discovery Award of "Les Rencontres d’ Arles" Laureate. Young photographers shall receive portfolio reviews by a panel of international photography expertise, including Christopher Phillips, curator of International Center of Photography, Eva Respini, associate curator of Photography from MOMA, New York, and many others. The most engaging activity overnight will be outdoor evening concerts, documentary film screenings and slideshows. It is hoped the harsh winter of financial downslide as well as the potent threat of dislocation will leave the art scene. This belated spring shall bring along not only art festivities, but also expectations of a stable life as it is essential for the well-being of all of us!

[Editor] Elemy Liu

    Artintern