"Heaven": To Question the Ultimate Meaning of Humanity
Source:Artintern.net Author:Luo Yiping Date: 2013-09-04 Size:
Breaking away from the international convention for other triennial or biennial exhibitions, the fourth Guangzhou Triennial creates a new and unique form: its leading exhibition strives to raise a series of issues, which are further developed by four project exhibitions; then there is a thematic exhibition to summarize the issues discussed, ending with a special project exhibition that plays a supplementary role by covering issues that have been left out. Qiu Guangping’s solo exhibition named “Heaven “is exactly the special project exhibition for the fourth Guangzhou Triennial.

  Luo Yiping (Director of Guangdong Museum of Art)

  Breaking away from the international convention for other triennial or biennial exhibitions, the fourth Guangzhou Triennial creates a new and unique form: its leading exhibition strives to raise a series of issues, which are further developed by four project exhibitions; then there is a thematic exhibition to summarize the issues discussed, ending with a special project exhibition that plays a supplementary role by covering issues that have been left out. Qiu Guangping’s solo exhibition named “Heaven “is exactly the special project exhibition for the fourth Guangzhou Triennial.

  The leading exhibition is titled “Meta-Questions·Returning to the Art Museum Itself”. Based on the acts of “deconstruction “and “construction”, which are an integral part of the reconstruction and extension project of Guangdong Museum of Art, it combines history and philosophy, society and culture, the past and present, religion and technology, nature and environment, etc., in an attempt to explore two basic issues: firstly, what is the nature of art museum or contemporary art and their relations to social culture and public aesthetics; secondly, the fast-developing urban culture and the changes in social, cultural and psychological structure it results in, along with other essential issues that either have emerged, are currently occurring or have not yet surfaced. Such are the meta-questions for the leading exhibition of the fourth Guangzhou Triennial. The above issues are dealt with by four follow-up project exhibitions.

  The first one is named “Disillusioning Imagination About China “and attempts to discuss Chineseness, including how the imagination about China contained in orientalism has influenced Chinese contemporary art; why we need to and how we can disenchant the current imagination built around China; how Chinese contemporary art can reveal the truth despite the false and misleading appearance presented to us; and last but not least, what is the relationship between current cultural situation in China and contemporary art.

  The second project exhibition touches upon the issue that with a fast-developing urban culture, urban construction has led to soil erosion, environmental deterioration and an utter change in the world where we are live. Under this circumstance, artists try to create a second nature and explore where our home is and how it is like.

  The 4th project exhibition is held in Britain. Guangdong Museum of Art has rented 100 4m x 8m billboards there and invited 100 artists from all over the world to create art on the billboards, which are a medium placed in an urban context. Such an act certainly transcends the boundary of art museums, challenges the “repeatability” of ordinary advertisement and at the same time poses a question to the audience with its unique and striking visual art: how should public art be like so that it can be termed “public”? Does the art in art museum have to be “public”? With support from the English government, this public exhibition has made quite a stir in England.

  This year, while Guangdong Museum of Art is moving forward, it also reflects on the event of Guangzhou Triennial. We find that there is something missing: the ultimate reflections on humanity and the sense of life. It is because we no longer harbor “reverence” that humans today would destroy land in huge quantity and encounter serious safety problems with food and medicines. In the absence of respect to nature and humanity, there will be no improvement in morality so that humans will do whatever they want. In this case, where lies the value of ultimate ethics? Where is the ultimate meaning of life? On this occasion, Mr. Wu Hong came to Guangdong Museum of Art with Qiu Guangping’s proposal for a solo exhibition. Wu not only brought us a well-developed proposal but also clever and perfect usage of the space on the second floor of Guangdong Museum of art, which moved me greatly at that moment. I suddenly realized, for this year’s event, we should explore an ultimate issue, one that concerns “humanity”. It has to be “human nature”, revolving around the ultimate issues about human life and their sense of belonging. Such issues will probably emerge themselves during the exhibition. Thus I came up with the idea to make the “Heaven” exhibition a special project exhibition for the fourth Guangzhou Triennial, which can present the event most lively.

  “Heaven”, or “Paradise”is purely an imaginary realm created by humans according to their cognition. This very idea exists in various forms in different civilizations across the world, to which hell stands in contrast. From the perspective of religion, it can be understood as a state of mind, which is full of content as well as satisfaction and could be entered only after humans rid themselves of desires. To interpret from a philosophical angle, it can be reached by humans through their reason and wisdom, while a materialist and secular would suggest that heaven is a social stage where all the desires can be satisfied to the utmost without paying anything. In recent history, party politics also expresses the wish for the ideal state of heaven. In a word, “heaven” is a dream-like existence standing in comparison with the real world, on the path to which spiritual purification and the expectation for the ultimate desire are always intertwined in a most strange way. Thus it could be said that humans’ intellectual history revolves around how the soul wanders between heaven and hell. All our efforts toward “heaven” turn out to create a “hell on earth”, examples including driving out dissents for religious or political purposes, developing theories and taking actions to build a “heaven on earth” for material comfort. All of our efforts made on “heaven” have ended up creating “a hell on earth”, which can be viewed as the other side of heaven. “Side A”, or the positive representation of heaven, and “Side B”, the negative one, together constitute the complete picture of humans’ inner desires.

  In this context, the “heaven” exhibition curated by Wu Hong proves to be an exploration of human’s intellectual history in relation to the expression of desires. While the exhibition unfolds, the theme of “heaven” has been developed, transformed and gone through metonymy, ending up in questioning our souls’ final belonging and ultimate destiny. It is obvious that in this exhibition, “heaven” is no mysterious expression of affected sentimentalism, Rather, it functions as a vehicle and a perspective to look at the structure of human desire, which is then projected into the social reality. On the other hand, as a widely accepted “prophecy of the century”, “2012”, the year when most of the project of the fourth Guangzhou Triennal were presented, can reflect the paradox of development in the current pattern of civilization, due to which humans have now entered a predicament. Borrowing the Mayan Prophecy of 2012, Qiu has developed it into a sub-theme of the exhibition, which, together with “heaven”, becomes part of its integral thematic structure. The two are interdependent and complementary, whose collision leads to mutation and a symphony-like structural development. In the end reflections are presented regarding our souls, values, pattern of civilization and the ultimate destiny.

  I am especially pleased to see that the curator and artist have made an integral use of the architectural structure inside the Guangdong Museum of Art, in order to adapt the exhibition’s theme to the change and development in space, and thus embedded architectural language into the visualized thinking pattern of the theme. A psychologically isomorphic relation is established between the theme and the exhibition venue, based on which the works on display take the form of painting, installation, sculpture, image and video as well as performance art. Thus the exhibition space in the museum is greatly enriched. At the same time, despite their separate subject matters, each piece is related to the other inter-textually and in the way of metonymy. In this sense, the visual effect of the space can evoke further reflections among the viewers, leading to the sparks of thought on the theme.


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[Editor] 常霞

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