Yishu - Journal of Contemporary Chinese Art

The Fourth Yishu Awards for Critical Writing on Contemporary Chinese Art

Tuesday, January 21st, 2014

Yishu: Journal of Contemporary Chinese Art is pleased to announce the recipients of the Fourth Yishu Awards for Critical Writing on Contemporary Chinese Art. Two jurors who have extensive experience in the field of contemporary Chinese art each were invited to make a recommendation: Martina Köppel-Yang, an independent scholar and curator with a Ph.D. in East Asian Art from the University of Heidelberg, selected Anthony Yung, and Li Xianting, an internationally renowned scholar, curator, and critic of contemporary Chinese art, selected Cui Cancan. Each award carries a value of $5,000 CAD. Past award recipients include Maya Kovskaya and Sheng Wei, in 2010; Zhu Qi and Huang Zhuan, in 2011; and Lu Peng and Yu-Ling Chou, in 2012.

The Yishu Awards for Critical Writing are important to the mandate of Yishu and were established to encourage and recognize writers who are making an outstanding contribution to exploring the history of and current issues in contemporary Chinese art.

Martina Köppel-Yang notes that Anthony Yung is at an early stage in his career. He has been working since 2007 as a senior researcher at the Asia Art Archive in Hong Kong where he has participated in and managed important archive projects such as Materials of the Future: Documenting Contemporary Chinese Art from 1980–1990 and the documentary film From Jean-Paul Sartre to Teresa Teng: Cantonese Contemporary Art in the 1980s, of which he was a co-director.

In addition to his work as a researcher, Anthony Yung has curated exhibitions with a younger generation of Chinese and Hong Kong artists. He also co-founded the independent exhibition space Observation Society, located in Guangzhou. His writing in the field of contemporary Chinese art reflects his practical experience as a researcher and curator. He pays particular attention to crafting detailed descriptions of artworks as well as to terminology. Anthony Yung takes into account the local background yet does not forget to position the artwork in relation to contemporary concepts and philosophy. By trying to develop a terminology appropriate for the respective contexts he questions, he avoids being formulaic in his writing. This is particularly important in the field of Chinese art criticism, or criticism of contemporary Chinese art, in which the limits of the Chinese language and the lack of an appropriate, sensitive, and meaningful indigenous terminologies and the consequent integration of foreign terminologies can pose problems. Anthony Yung’s experience as a curator further enables him to maintain a creative dialogue with artists and with local contexts. His writing is engaged, informed, and sensitive, and he will contribute even more significant and interesting writing in the future.

Li Xianting observes that in recent years Cui Cancan, based in Beijing, has explored the use of alternative spaces. Through a series of exhibitions including Heiqiao Night Away, A Dream, and Container Project, Cui Cancan has taken art out of the existing art system and placed it on the streets and in local communities. These exhibitions articulate his concerns about contemporary Chinese political issues, as well as about Internet communications investigating the most central and fundamental contradictions of the current era and the changes the new technologies have brought to art production and distribution.

For example, the exhibition Heiqiao Night Away lasted sixty days and included more than two hundred artists. This project was a rejection of mainstream systems. All artworks were placed in an abandoned space where there was no security, no fixed display mode, and no audience. The artworks quickly appeared and disappeared, confronted each other, were undisciplined in their relationships, and avoided any efficient, predesigned organizing format. This project also created a new means of communication, not only through word of mouth, but also through artists’ self-broadcasting on social media and by employing the networks Weibo and Wechat. The exhibition demonstrated that contemporary art is no longer a form itself but made up of its social attributes, taking into consideration how it is distributed and recognized in the society.

Cui Cancan places particular emphasis on individual action in order to confront the powerful systems, the absorption of individual cultural identity by arts institutions, the effect of totalitarian politics on individual rights and living environments, and consumer trends that are dominated by the cultural tastes and lifestyles of centralized capitalism.

Financial Support for the Yishu Awards for Critical Writing on Contemporary Chinese Art Financial is made possible by Stephanie Holmquist and Mark Allison, Li Lin, and the Canadian Foundation of Asian Art.

image: Anthony Yung (left), Cui Cancan (right)

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