Pavilion of China – Venice Art Biennale 2017 | BUXI / Continuum exhibition
Curator: Qiu Zhijie
Featured artists: Tang Nanan, Wu Jian'an, Yao Huifen, Wang Tianwen
Continuum, Generation by Generation, pavilion of China at the 57th Venice Art Biennale, 2017, general view; photo © Inexhibit
Pavilion of China – Venice Art Biennale 2017 | BUXI / Continuum. Generation by Generation exhibition
At the 57th Venice Art Biennale, China presents the exhibition Continuum. Generation by Generation, a thorough investigation on the concepts of permanence and transformation in Chinese society and art.
Curated by Qiu Zhijie, artist and professor at the CAFA Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing, the exhibition is inspired by the philosophic concept of buxi (a Chinese term roughly meaning ceaselessy).
Through works by four Chinese contemporary artists – Tang Nanan (b. 1969), Wu Jian’an (b. 1980), Yao Huifen (b. 1967), and Wang Tianwen (b. 1949) – Continuum focuses on themes such as perseverance, resilience, cultural transmission, and regeneration, as well as on the relationship between traditional culture and contemporary art in China.
Overall, works on view and the exhibition itself, conceived as a space which public can explore freely without a predefined sequence of visit, are characterized by the idea of a continuous cultural flow from generation to generation, something one could actually expect from a civilization which is existing and evolving for over 4000 years.
Also duality connected to the Yin and Yang principle (such as ancient/modern, mountain/ocean, tradition/innovation, permanence/transformation) is constantly present in the work of the four artists whose creations represent the backbone of the exhibition. References to traditional Chinese art and craft – particularly in the works of Wu Jian’an, Yao Huifen, and Wang Tianwen – are also central to the exhibition. For example, the intertwining of folk art and technology is epitomized by three shadow play works – created through a cross collaboration between Wang Tianwen, Wu Jian’an, and Tang Nanan – which combine video projections, mechanical devices, and typical Chinese shadow play carvings.
Indeed, many of the works on view in the pavilion are actually a collaboration between two or more of the artists on show, rather than exclusively personal creations, thus expressing once again the idea of cultural transmission though collective effort and inter-generational collaboration.
Finally, to emphasize such intertwining between ancient and modern as well as the concept of continuity across time and generations, two ancient painting from the Palace Museum in Beijing are presented in the pavilion – Skeleton Fantasy Show by Li Song (1190-1230) and Twelve Images of Water Surging by Ma Yuan (ca. 1160-1225) – and also the two ideograms which form the word buxi (which is the formal Chinese title of the exhibition) are written in two different antique calligraphic styles, one created by fourth-century calligrapher Wang Xizhi, and one by his son Wang Xianzhi.
Continuum, Generation by Generation, pavilion of China at the 57th Venice Art Biennale, 2017, general views; photos © Inexhibit
Wu Jian’an, The Birth of the Galaxy, 2012, paper-cut collage; photo © Inexhibit
Wang Tianwen, Wu Jian’an, and Tang Nanan, Continuum – Removing the Mountains and Filling the Sea, shadow theater performance, front and back views; photos © Inexhibit
A calligraphy workshop is part of the 2017 exhibition of the Pavilion of China; photo © Inexhibit
Center: Wu Jian’an, The Heaven of Nine Levels; left and right side: Yao Huifen and Wu Jian’an, Yoshan Series, 2017, Suzhou embroidery; photo © Inexhibit
Wu Jian’an, The Heaven of Nine Levels (detail), 2008-2009, handcrafted engraving on leather; photo © Inexhibit