In contexts where history-making is of the moment and not a self-conscious act anticipating the future, its documentation is often ephemeral, or even nonexistent. Yishu 69 opens with a review of an exhibition and book, as well as a conversation, revolving around an ongoing project by Biljana Ciric seeking inventive ways to bring alive and make visible the history of contemporary art in Shanghai, where, beyond individual memories, a scarcity of material is available.
Voon Pow Bartlett looks at history from a different perspective in her discussion of an exhibition at the Whitechapel Gallery that examined the evolution of the “black square” in abstract art; she explores the perplexing inclusion of two artists from mainland China, Zhao Yao and Liu Wei, relative to the larger premise of the exhibition. The studio practice of one of those artists, Liu Wei, is the subject of Danielle Shang’s text, which looks more deeply into how his art reflects urban change as well as his employment of migrant workers in the fabrication of his work, a subject often overlooked when considering the trajectory of an artwork within the overall art system.
Huang Yongping and Xiaojing Yan exemplify two different generations representing the Chinese diasporic experience, and the interviews with them, one by Yu Hsiao Hwei and the other by Matthew Ryan Smith, bring to light the particularities each has faced with respect to when they emigrated, where they adopted their new home, and how their artwork has been affected.
In conclusion, Xu Bing and Yangjiang Group challenge the tradition of calligraphy and bring its discourse and practice into a contemporary context. As Chanda Laine Carey argues, Xu Bing has worked for many years to expand our understanding of linguistics through disrupting the tenets of Chinese calligraphy and bringing it into a more expansive discursive field. Lisa Catt demonstrates how Yangjiang Group subverts the formal principles of Chinese rituals such as tea serving and calligraphy and inserts them into everyday situations that are, in the case of Sydney, Australia, far from their origin.
Image (top): Yangjiang Group, FINALDAYS, 2015, commissioned by 4A Centre for Contemporary AsianArt, Sydney. Photo: Zan Wimberley. Courtesy of the artists and Vitamin CreativeSpace, Guangzhou.