What is Pioneer Art?
Source:Artintern.net Date: 2011-06-21 Size:
In general Chinese pioneer art is part of Chinese contemporary art, but it differs from the contemporary art in that it tries to break through the pursuit of modernity in artworks since ’85 Fine Art Movement. Although it possesses the quality of trans-modernity in modernity,

From the aspect of concept of time, pioneer art refers to Chinese contemporary art. For Chinese contemporary art, there were two important events happened in 1993: (1) some Chinese artists, represented by Wang Guangyi and Fang Lijun attended the 45th Venice Biennale whose theme is about social and political problems and (2) the exhibition of “Chinese Experience”, in which Ye Yongqing created the work “Big Poster and Mawangdui” by means of installation, a medium used rare at that time. The avant-garde nature of this work did manifest the characteristics of trans-modernity. It makes me think about why this kind of work can be called art. 

In general Chinese pioneer art is part of Chinese contemporary art, but it differs from the contemporary art in that it tries to break through the pursuit of modernity in artworks since ’85 Fine Art Movement. Although it possesses the quality of trans-modernity in modernity, it doesn’t merely belong to the category of post-modernity. One of the important characteristics of modern people’s life is that their thoughts are always in the blended state of contradiction. It is the reason why most of modern arts are broken and not beautiful, but they still have the possibilities for expressing the tension of thoughts in their perfection of images. It is just the tension of thoughts manifested by images that make post-modern art have aesthetic characteristic.  

Can we deduce the relationship between “pioneer art” and avant-garde Art from the relationship between “pioneer art” and contemporary art? What is the relevance and difference between them?

According to the definition of history of art thought, we are opposed to the idea of bringing Neo-Literati Paintings and Classical Realism Paintings during the past 30 years in China into the range of ideological history writing, because there are no events of thoughts happened in them. The tension of thoughts inside them has been vanished away, which makes these artists only become some kind of reincarnations of past artists. They don’t develop any individual and original images of their life feeling. In other words, they are not individual beings. Even in 1980s, their works couldn’t be regarded as part of avant-garde arts. As far as the tradition of western realism paintings or of Chinese literati paintings is concerned, the so-called Neo-Literati Paintings and Classical Realism Paintings in Chinese contemporary art in fact have no new developments in artistic language, and further, they have lost all relevance to modern life in the aspect of subject matter. They are criticized by avant-garde artists and have nothing to do with pioneer art. On the contrary, the symbols of avant-garde arts should be embodied in their criticism of artistic language of the same era. Compared with the high, great, and perfect images in the Cultural Revolution Fine Art, the Hurts Art focuses on injured experiences of ordinary people in the Cultural Revolution and was regarded as the avant-garde art at that time. Compared with the subject of the Hurts Art which focuses on the lower people in society, the appeal to “Great Soul” in ’85 Fine Art Movement was regarded as the avant-garde at that time. Compared with the pursuit of sublime ideal of ’85 Fine Art Movement, the Political Pop, the Cynical Realism, the Cartoon Generation and the Gaudy Art in 1990s which deconstruct all the things with positive value were taken as the avant-garde art. Compared with these traditional art movements with negative value, Land Art, Performance, Installation and Video Art which step forward in exploring the artistic language are regarded as the avant-garde art. In other words, by observing the artistic phenomenon appeared in each ten years, we have found that there are different forms of avant-garde art in different ages. Since that, what is the relationship between pioneer art and avant-garde art?

Pioneer Art refers to the trans-avant-garde art in avant-garde arts. In every age avant-garde art tries to go beyond other artistic forms in the dimension of horizon; while being different from avant-garde art, the trans-avant-garde characteristic of pioneer art tries to go beyond them in the vertical dimension of thoughts and deeply develop artistic concepts expressed by art in a relatively long period.

Besides, from the relationship between “pioneer art” and contemporary art, can we derive the relationship between “pioneer art” and marginal art and what is the relevance and difference between them?

In the pre-modern political times, if an artist wants to make his art get off marginal situation, he must have combined his art with actual political power. He could be recognized by the authority in artistic institution through actively singing praise of reality rather than criticizing it. In the modern economic times, the establishment of mainstream status of an artistic form depends on its combination with capital and mass media. In other words, if an artist criticizes the ethics of commercial phenomena and mass media, they would fall into a member of those artists who are in marginal situation. In the sense of “tans-avant-garde”, because pioneer art could reach the depth of artistic thought only by criticizing the system of power and property, it is taken as marginal art in the pre-modern political society and modern capital society. For this reason, it has a tendency of trans-mainstream. This kind of trans-mainstream art should focus more on distinguishing artistic phenomenon from others as political, economical and legal phenomena; it should work at defending the unique value of art, a kind of life feeling of man’s spiritual form; and it should focus on exploring artistic forms to make art all different from the systemization of metaphysical concept and the practices of religious faith.     

In a word, because of the prescriptions of “trans-modernity”, “trans-avant-garde” and “trans-mainstream”, Chinese pioneer art is different from contemporary art, avant-garde art and marginal art. In other words, we can assume that those which are characterized by “trans-modernity”, “trans-avant-garde” and “trans-mainstream” in Chinese contemporary art, avant-garde art and marginal art should be discussed in the scope of Chinese pioneer art. This is the connotation of Chinese pioneer art

[Editor] Lola Xu

    Artintern