What does photography tell us about the life experiences of the individual faced with a radical transformation of society? What visual languages does a generation of younger artists in China invent in its search for self-understanding?
A selection of seventy photographs from the last twenty years by fourteen Chinese artists is presented in the current presentation at the Alexander Tutsek-Stiftung. All the works have been acquired for the foundation by Dr. Eva-Maria Fahrner-Tutsek on her numerous trips to China.
After Robert Rauschenberg’s great series in the last exhibition, Study for Chinese Summerhall of 1983, with its Western look at China, the photographs offer inside views of the artists living in that country. Their themes revolve around self-perception, subjective experiences and everyday ways of living. They range from documentation of the explosive social change by way of critical perception of the new living conditions in the metropolises and in the countryside, to attentiveness to its vanishing cultural heritage. Whether in quiet, black-and-white aesthetic suggestive of documentaries or as a dramatic presentation in colour, they all tell of the artists’ own experiences: About Us. With themes such as memory and history, melancholy and resistance, dream and vision, body and individuality, they concern the search for one’s own identity. They are mirrors of ideas and fears, of isolation and lust for life, of curiosity and depression, of coolness and confusion of their authors.
A new generation of artists completely transformed their artistic production in the 1980s and 1990s after the Cultural Revolution in China ended. After Socialist Realism, ideology and propaganda, they developed new concepts and visual languages and a wealth of styles and techniques. The concept “experimental photography” attempts to sum up the complex and yet very different experimental and conceptual works produced from the 1990s to the present. Their diversity is also reflected in the selection of artists represented in the exhibition, several of whom are internationally renowned, while others are largely unknown outside of China.
Exhibited artists include Adou, Birdhead, Cai Dongdong, Chen Ronghui, Chen Wei, Gao Mingxi, Jiang Pengyi, Liang Xiu, Ren Hang, RongRong, RongRong & Inri, Wang Ningde, Yang Fudong and Zhang Xiao.
The exhibition is intended as a contribution to the discourse on contemporary photography in China, a country that is increasingly a decisive political and economic power internationally, though its visual worlds are little known in the medium of photography in the Western world. These photographs, where their autobiographical narratives, subjective worlds of ideas, alternative models and visions offer insight into the individual complex emotional and experiential worlds of a generation of young artists who use the photograph as their medium in diverse ways in their search of identity in the turbulences of a changing society.
About Us at the Alexander Tutsek-Stiftung continues until 21.09.2021.