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Background music adds a touch of magic to new art exhibition

Listen carefully to the background noise at the Hayward Gallery in the Art of Change exhibit near the Liang Shaoji piece and what you will hear is a slight murmur and rustle of leaves as silkworms munch away on mulberry leaves.

This is pretty diverse given the fact that Liang has caterpillars placed in antique window frames which is the very last place that you would expect to find them spinning cocoons. Of course, with a title such as New Directions from China you expect to find some very Chinese elements at play.

Due to continual political repression and the Cultural Revolution, the Chinese have been late coming into the world of contemporary art which makes it hard to define who the ‘Chinese’ reference is too.

After all, to the Chinese the art would not be as obvious as it would be defined by their own standards and not the standards of the west who have carved out the world of contemporary art primarily since the sixties. Of course, the major question is if we should even be trying to define who the term Chinese is directed for in this exhibit.

A great example of an artist that does not use her heritage to define her art is Yingmei Duan who is responsible for the installation art piece Art of Change. She has easily slide into the category of Western art with her piece as it is composed of three works that are in reality white shelves that are cantilevered into the walls.

She is a minimalist to say the least, but the performance pieces she is able to create are very stunning and obviously show her tutelage under Marina Abramovic her art teacher from her schooling in Germany. In short, you would not instantly call her work Chinese, and maybe you shouldn’t call others either.


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