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Reprinted from: Green Bay Press-Gazette
http://www.greenbaypressgazette.com/

March 9, 2007

UWGB art exhibit comments on emerging China

By Katie Stilp
Press-Gazette correspondent

An exhibit of global and cultural significance opened recently at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay.

"RUINS: An Exhibition of New Video and Photography from China" looks at the new economic culture emerging from one of the oldest cultures on Earth through six video works and 23 large-scale color photographs by 16 Chinese artists.

"The new China is being built on these ruins, and all the artists in the show (are) dealing with how the old China is being razed and new skyscrapers, Starbucks and McDonald's are being put in their place. What is in the past is now in ruins (and) being destroyed, and this new culture is emerging from that," said William Andersen, a lecturer at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee who is responsible for bringing the exhibit to Wisconsin.

After originating at UW-Milwaukee, the show also was displayed at Beloit College.

The exhibit's title was taken from an art essay titled, "Ruins, Fragmentation, and the Chinese Modern/Postmodern" by Wu Hung.

Zhang Zhaohui, the exhibit's Chinese curator, says "RUINS" carries three meanings: "First, it refers to the demolition sites of old buildings in urban or rural areas. Second, it encompasses social phenomena or spectacles that mix different cultural icons without integration and judgment. And third, it signifies the fragmentation and collapse of a social order."

Photographs include "Moldy Landscape Series" by Liu Jin, which shows mold growing on hundreds of children's toy cars. This piece represents the One Child Policy that China has implemented.

Stephen Perkins, curator of art for Lawton Gallery, said his favorite piece, "Hand Series by Sheng Qi," shows three different photographs of a hand with only four fingers holding a smaller photograph. Perkins likes the story behind it. The artist cut off a finger to protest China's communism, then fled the country.

"It's a very, very powerful image. Once you find out a little bit about the themes (and) the reason the guy's only got four fingers, then it becomes a little bit more interesting," he said.

Jessie Allen, a freshman art education major at UWGB, likes Ma Yongfeng's "Immaterialism Garden," which shows a tree with bare branches in a zoo-type setting.

"I liked how it looked so empty. It looked like something was missing," Allen said.

Andersen said he brought the exhibit to the United States hoping to make people more aware of the world, especially China: "I just feel that the U.S., especially here in the Midwest, we're too closed off from the rest of the world. People don't seem to be aware (of) these global connections that are affecting their lives."

"It's not just about getting cheaper tennis shoes manufactured in China," Andersen said. "It's transforming China, and that transformation is going to affect us. We're intimately connected with the rest of the world, and people need to be aware of that and the cultural and social implications of that. Their lives are being transformed, and our lives are being transformed."

One of most well-known and misunderstood videos, "The Swirl," shows Chinese koi fish, which are expensive, being put in a washing machine.

Andersen said the artist intended the koi fish to represent abundance, wealth and the whole scholarly intellectual tradition of China. The washing machine represents the West and the new life the people of China are striving for.

"Traditional culture is just being thrown into this washing machine. And, yes, it's going to make your fish clean, but what kind of havoc is it going to have on tradition and life?" Andersen said.



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