DISPATCH 30 SEPT 1997
THE LAST ROUNDUP

London's final farewell to China's media artists included a tour of a Guangzhou "normal school," the term for regular universities that teach the sciences and the humanities, which include art. Academies, such as the Guangzhou Academy of Art, only offer fine art instruction.

London wondered why this normal school occasionally shows the work of media artists, whereas academies and museums rarely include any new media work in their exhibitions.   The art teachers at the normal school hang out in an art wreck room, lounging in mildly chaotic surroundings reminiscent of art schools back home. In the studios a flight of stairs away, London smiled encouragingly at the teacher and student artwork. Their medium, mostly paint on canvas, is not her bailiwick.

Other art meetings, whether fun or dull, were strained. An uninvited audience, the art police, seemed to monitor the interviews. If not actually present (some of the artists might be plants), the "right thinking" brigade might at any moment put an end to the dispatches. Surely at a later date, bureaucrats would finely comb what the artists said, and impose corrective measures.   The school is not at all extraordinary, but it harbors a first for London in China - an easy-going art scene.

The normal school is out of the loop, a backwater for art. Engineering, physics, mathematics, these are the faculties that count and these professors run the school. They have no time for the political intricacies of the art establishment.

They desire to be part of the current worldwide art scene. They are eager to see, to learn, to be world class artists. A few of them are.   Fifteen artists - teachers at the school and their friends who exhibit in the gallery - joined London in the cafeteria for a final feast. They wanted information: Bill Viola's early work, Gary Hill's finances, art on the internet, Documenta, the recent Kwangju Biennial. A couple of artists, who had been to Documenta, faulted the retrospective slant of the show. They wanted to know what's happening now, not a curator's opinion about where art has been the last fifty years.



Population in China: 1,200,000,000
Found media artists:            35


If art in China interests you, take a look at these books:

  • Another Long March: Chinese Conceptual Art, 1997
    (Amsterdam, Fundament Foundation, 1997)

  • China - Aktuelles aus 15 ateliers
    (Munich, 1996)

  • In and Out: Contemporary Chinese Art from China and Australia
    (Singapore, Lasalle-SIA College of Arts, 1996)

  • Platform 1: 10 Young Modern Artists from Asia and Latin America
    (Amsterdam, Canvas Foundation, 1997)

  • Uncertain Pleasure: Chinese Artists in the 1990s
    (Hong Kong, Art Beatus Gallery, 1997)

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DOUBLE HAPPINESS


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