The Function of Individual Case Histories
Source:Artintern Author:Lü Peng Date: 2008-06-18 Size:
What is an individual case history? Everybody’s answer is different. If we want to make an artist and his or her works the subject of an individual case history of historical research, there are likely to be objections.

 Zhang Xiaogang, Memory loss and Memory, oil on canvas, 2007

What is an individual case history? Everybody’s answer is different. If we want to make an artist and his or her works the subject of an individual case history of historical research, there are likely to be objections. Why is he or she, but not someone else, the target of historical research? It is really difficult to answer this kind of question, because our background knowledge and experience of life, not to mention our physiological and mental structures, have nothing in common, and so we are apt to differ in thinking and concepts.

‘Artists in Art History’ is the first exhibition at the SZ Art Center established by Hunan Fine Arts Publishing House in Beijing’s 798 art zone. The inception of this project was Hunan Fine Arts Publishing House’s proposal to publish a collection of some of the articles I had written as research on particular artists, in order to enable readers to have a focused understanding of my studies on contemporary art and, simultaneously, to assemble the works of these artists and stage an exhibition to coincide with the publication of the collected volume, which the publishing house felt would be an interesting and meaningful event. In recent years, the critical articles written by Zhu Zhu have been also very significant. I pointed out that assembling his articles in a single volume would facilitate understanding of contemporary art, and so it came about that the exhibition built around my ‘case histories’ will be followed by an exhibition featuring ‘Artists in Art Criticism’.

In fact, to date, no volume of case histories featuring research and observation of contemporary Chinese art has made its appearance, and although many artists are now household names, people do not know why their art is important. I could imagine that the works offered by artists for this exhibition focused on art history might not be their most important works, but these works are an integral part of the artists’ history. In anthropology and sociology, any detail contains historical information, and these works all stem from the artists’ thought and basic linguistic context.

This exhibition attempts to present the case histories of artists from the perspective of art history. Although the artists participating in the exhibition are only a part of contemporary art trends, their works nevertheless provide required connecting historical information. Why do artists paint in those styles? Why did this change take place? Why did these new symbols appear? Why did this inertia of the spirit emerge? What can we see from today’s works?

Frankly speaking, if we temporally connect the thinking, experiences and works of the 23 artists participating in this exhibition, we have an historical outline of contemporary Chinese art. Usually, during the process of understanding contemporary art, one of the mistakes is that people make aesthetic judgments of taste with no basis in historical knowledge, and judgments are confined to a ‘floating’ description that cannot be connected to any system of historical knowledge. Although at times these arbiters of taste are familiar with the concepts of Nietzsche, Foucault and Bourdieu, they fail to appreciate the required basic context of objective knowledge, because of the post-modern refusal to recognize its existence.

 

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[Editor] Mark Lee

    Artintern