Chen Shaoxiong: Prepared

Curator Hou Han Ru
Artists Chen Shao Xiong
Chen Shaoxiong: Prepared

Power Station of Art (PSA) will be presenting Chen Shaoxiong’s largest solo exhibition to date Chen Shaxiong: Prepared from June 11 to September 11, 2016. The exhibition covers the creative endeavour of the artist in the last three decades, especially focusing on major works in the last 15 years, with two new projects created in 2016. The body of works ranges from video, installation, photo-montage, painting to collective participation. The exhibition is curated by Hou Hanru.

Chen Shaoxiong grew up in southern China, where the informal urban spaces nurtured a sense of unconventional imagination and creative capacity in him. Early in the mid-1980s, he was involved with the underground and experimental art scene in Guangzhou. In the 1990s, he was a member of one of the most important artists group “Big Tail Elephants” in Guangzhou, Southern China, together with Lin Yilin, Liang Juhui and Xu Tan. Being at a “doubly marginalised” position, “Big Tail Elephants” often took collective action while preserving members’ individual uniqueness. The group intervened in informal urban spaces such as car parks, construction sites and offices, as well as the streets, with site-specific projects of performances and installations. Often conducted in a “guerrilla” style, their endeavours accumulated a series of milestone projects, which became vivid testimonies of the unprecedentedly rapid urbanisation and expansion in the Pearl River Delta region, inspiring and influencing the entire contemporary art ecology in southern China at the time.

▲Big Tail Elephants,from internet

The focus on urban grass-root life perpetuates the thinking and creation of Chen Shaoxiong. He distils the difference and variation from the chaotic quotidian experience, then explore the hybridity and boundary between “perception” and “reality” through non-confrontational methods. In the Streetscape series, he captured the ever changing settings in the streets, then broke down the time sequence through photo collage, constructing a portable familiar landscape via selective deconstruction of man-made sceneries. Since then, Chen Shaoxiong’s artworks developed more complex bodies. Their themes discuss not only the changing nature of urban life but also their influence on perceptive modes and social consciousness, touching upon the challenges facing contemporary society in the process of globalisation.

In the video installation Anti-terrorism Variety Chen conceived for the 2003 Venice Biennale, he made the landmark architecture in China spontaneously “bend over”, to craftily dodge the plane crash. For the unavoidable tension between a city and its hidden shadow, Chen used his unique humour to provide a spectacular solution and possibility. The artist thinks, “No matter whether we are reconstructing international political issues or dealing with tragedies in personal life, a sense of humour is equally important. The sense of humour often presents us a different possibility of our reality, or constructing a dream closer to the ideal.”

▲Anti-terrorism Variety (2002)ChenShaoxiong

For Chen Shaoxiong, Chinese ink painting is a source of creativity that he keeps revisiting. In the last decade, the artist transcribed photographs onto Chinese painting, then combined them with new techniques such as dynamic photography and computer animations. In the skipping between scenarios and time, the slit between premeditation and spontaneity, the limited viewing experience rendered smoothly the intertwined intense reality between individuals and their city at the time and era. In Visible and Invisible, Known and Unknown, a small train carrying a tiny camera roars past the overhead rails with the original ink painting suspending above. The viewers could only see the ink landscape on screens while it’s simultaneously being shot by the camera on the train, without preclude or ending.

Visible and Invisible, Known and Unknown(2007)

▲Visible and Invisible, Known and Unknown(2007)

 In Ink Diary and Ink Media, the artist led the viewers to return to the direct gazing of the visual information, through these counter-narrative image series – although these ink images all seem to carry either personal or public narratives. Under this intentional break-down of expressions, the audience would experience the paradox of an ordinary life mediated through media.

▲ Ink Diary(2006)

What is remarkable is that his system of thoughts and practice has become hugely open, and his artistic language is now entering a truly mature period. It stays vividly open to innovations while the consistence of his intellectual reflections is consolidated. From 2008, he started to invite the public to participate in his project series Collective Memory, collecting fragmented memories through a fragmented form of participation. When the solid landscape becomes blurred by the thousands of finger prints, the collective memory from the local residents about the transitions in their city and society are quietly awaken. Besides, he initiated a trans-national collaboration project with the Japanese artist Tsuyoshi Ozawa and the Korean artist Gimhongsok (often involving their families too) in the name “Xijing Men”. “Xijing Men” hold a sense of “utopian nostalgia”. They intend to explore the possibility of a path to historical struggle and alternative future, through individual and quotidian humorous interaction, in negotiation with the sheer dystopian reality and history,

▲"Xijing Men", 2008,Chen Shaoxiong

About Artist

Chen Shaoxiong was born in Shantou, Guangdong province, China, in 1962 and graduated from the Guangzhou Academy of Fine Arts in 1984. Chen was a founding member of the “ Big Tail Elephant Group” of conceptual artists in Guangzhou in the 1990’s. Today, he works both independently and collaboratively as a member of an Asian artist collective called “Xijing Men” as well as another Chinese artist collective called “Project without Space”. He lives and works in Beijing.

His work was featured in the Venice Biennale 2003; Guangzhou Triennial 2005 and Shanghai Biennale 2002. His works have also been exhibited in PS1 Museum, and the International Center of Photography in New York; the Victoria and Albert Museum in London; Kunsthalle Bern in Switzerland; Mori Art Museum in Tokyo; Hamburger Bahnhof in Berlin and Tate Liverpool.

Chen’s recent exhibitions include a solo exhibit at the Spencer Museum of Art, University of Kansas, 2012; a solo show at the PARA/SITE art space, Hong Kong, 2008; and participation in the Gwangju Biennale 2012; National Art Museum of China, Beijing, 2009; Aichi Triennale 2010, Nagoya, Japan; and, the 10th Lyon Biennale, 2010. Chen is a 2013 Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Creative Arts Fellow.

About Curator

Hou Hanru is a prolific writer and curator based in Rome, Paris and San Francisco. He is currently the Artistic Director of MAXXI (National Museum for 21st Century Art and National Museum of Architecture), Rome, Italy. Hou Hanru has curated and co-curated around 100 exhibitions for last two decades across the world including: "By Day, By Night, or some (special) things a museum can do" (Rockbund Art Museum, Rockbund, Shanghai, 2010), "Power of Doubt" (PhotoEspagna 2010, Madrid, Times Museum, Guangzhou, 2011), “Dirty Realism, Liu Xiaodong in Hotan” (organized by Today Art Museum, Beijing, Urumqi, 2012, Beijing, 2013), “Zizhiqu – Autonomous Regions” (Times Museum, Guangzhou, 2013), etc. “If you were to live here…” – The 5th Auckland Triennial, Auckland, New Zealand, 2013. He is a consultant for numerous cultural institutions (museums, foundations, collections, etc.) internationally including Deutsche Bank Collection, the Solomon Guggenheim Museum, New York, Times Museum, Guangzhou, Rockbund Art Museum, Shanghai, Kadist Foundation, San Francisco, etc. while serving as jury member for art prizes including the recent “Hugo Boss Prize Asia Art”, etc.