Chinese Video: Chord Changes in the Megalopolis

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Beijing: Chang'an Boulevard, 2004 Video Still © Ai Weiwei
Chinese Video: Chord Changes in the Megalopolis
Curated by: Kevin Power

Bradbury Building
218 W. Third St.
Los Angeles, CA 90013
September 13th, 2007 - November 17th, 2007

Tuesday to Saturday, 12 to 6


Morono Kiang Gallery is pleased to announce, Chord Changes in the Megalopolis, a group show featuring the work of twelve video artists. This will be the first time that many of the videos will be shown in the U.S. The exhibition will be on view from September 13 to November 17, 2007. An opening reception will be held on Thursday, September 13, from 5 to 9 PM, coinciding with the Downtown Art Walk.

It is a monstrous cliché to argue that China is in a process of massive change: it is, and in many aspects, it isn’t. That is to say, change as a visual phenomenon is rapid, but as a psychological process its pace is much slower. There are zones of curious and intense frictions—ideological, social, and economic—between what was and what is, what may be and what will not be. Chord Changes in the Megalopolis seeks to look at the way in which a number of Chinese video artists are living, documenting, reflecting upon, and conceptualizing these changes. Many of the videos focus on sociocultural changes and the redefinitions of social status and ambition in the new frenetically expanding megalopolis, with its changing urban landscape and its concentrated takes on fast, modern, consumer living.

Videos include Ai Weiwei’s Beijing: Chang’an Boulevard, a strangely obsessive but astutely conceptual piece dealing with Beijing’s ring road system, which stands as a register of growth, social zoning, traffic density, human loss, and bewilderment. The works provide paradigmatic statements that frame the diverse ways in which the artists included in this show represent the rhythms and momentums of social change.

This exhibition does not pretend to define ideological oppositions, but rather it seeks to show the diversity of readings and positions being taken by Chinese artists as they react to and analyze the particularities of their own circumstances and interests. The work varies from direct but poetically evocative documentary-style reportage to subtly worked metaphors. Xu Zhen creates an ironic tongue-in-cheek ideological deconstruction of frontier tensions in 18 Days, a work that is at the same time an existential adventure; Dong Jun provides sensitive register of the life of an art school model who, now eighty-four years old and economically reduced to subsistence living, has a passionate desire to avoid all thought yet remains elegant in her gestures; Chen Chieh-Jen re-creates in a wondrous, almost Bergmanesque fashion the industrial experience in an abandoned textile factory that he restores “momentarily” to life. Wang Wei shows two interrelated works, the first of which documents the life of a family of brick sellers who collect their bricks by demolishing buildings in the morning and then have to sell them off before nightfall because they have no storage space. The second video resituates this sociological document as the artist asks the same family to build a brick wall in a gallery as an art installation; the artist has negotiated with them and agreed to sell the bricks back to them at half price as one of the conditions of the realization of the piece.

These works reflect the pulse and the radical nature of the changes taking place in Chinese society. Some artists choose to do so by examining dramatic psychological dislocations that have disturbed former definitions of identity, as in Liu Ding’s Stop, or Wang Jan Wei’s Dodge, and Lin Yilin’s One Day, a video of the artist wandering the city with his leg handcuffed to his wrist.

These video works have clear elements of social critique, but above all they are interrogative, perceptive, and personal.

The newly opened Morono Kiang Gallery has approximately 3,000 square feet of exhibition space on the ground level of the historic Bradbury Building in downtown Los Angeles. The gallery promotes contemporary art—focusing on Chinese art from the last decade—and will host retrospective shows of recognized artists’ works, as well as the work of emerging artists.

Kevin Power is Chair of American Literature at the University of Alicante (Spain) and is also a Visiting Professor at Instituto Superior de Arte (Havana, Cuba), as well a lecturer at other universities in South America. From 2003 to 2005 he was assistant director of the Museo Nacional Reina Sofía in Madrid. He has worked as a critic and curator for the last twenty years.
An accompanying catalogue will be available in mid-October.