Artist: Liu Ding
installation, sound | Sound Installation | 2014

The work 1999 reflects on the state of “contemporary art“ in China in the 1990s. The work consists of recorded quotes and pop music of the 1990s, which can be listened to on the telephones. The quotes are both texts written by Liu Ding or excerpts taken from interviews Liu Ding conducted with Chinese artists and critics active in the 1990s. With 1999, Liu Ding hopes to provide an account of the Chinese art world in the 1990s as he has have observed and experienced. As the artist suggested, not much from that period have changed, especially the intellectual foundation of the art world today. In Liu Ding and Lu Yinghua’s view, the understanding and narrative of contemporary art’s origins and foundations as rebellious, oppositional and against the official system is a fabrication and some kind of projection. Artists who had joined the Chinese Communist Party before and after 1949, guided forms of artistic expression and formations of artistic awareness in the state ideology. They all worked, practiced, discussed and educated within the “framework”, whose content was the Party and state politics. Similarly, if we examine artistic practice since the end of the Cultural Revolution, it has not been able to form a new political subjectivity on top of the foundations of society, but rather has still continued moving within the Party and the state. in other words, from the beginning of the 20th century to this day, the practices and accomplish ments of Chinese intellectuals and of literature and art have been produced through the recognition and acceptance of this “framework” of the existing social order and of central political power. Liu Ding and Lu Yinghua have chosen Socialist Realism as a line of investigation in order to face and evaluate it squarely as a philosophy that organizes society and life, rather than merely as form. How does it influence and mold the positioning of our cultural values? We return to the original point of ideology, pushing back the range of observation on contemporary artistic practice in China from 1976 onwards to before 1949, placing and viewing art on a path parallel to intellectual history, and juxtaposing the progress of art next to China’s modernization. What we observe are Socialist Realist creative techniques, aesthetic principles, processes of thought and mechanisms of dissemination popularly employed and internalized under intense ideological control. The process, alongside the modernization of Chinese art, has morphed from its self-evident existence to becoming invisible or even an object of criticism and rejection, but it has, from beginning to end, remained an important foundation of our artistic creation and discussion today.


The 10th Shanghai Biennale - Social Factory | 2014.11.23 - 2015.03.31 | Shanghai Contemporary Art Museum(Shanghai, China)