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Autonomic Artists - Shi Qing

Author: Shi Qing Interviewer: Yang Beichen/artforum Translator: Liu Yiwen 2012-06-27

Shi Qing’s new exhibition "All That Is Solid Melts Into Air" is drawing to a close. Shi still holds the strength and intensity of destructive thinking to persistently inspect into various historical crisises resulting from internal conflicts between the present and the past.Actually Shi’s  rethinking of the art mechanism has never stopped. In a recent talk with artforum editor Yang Beichen, Shi Qing reviewed briefly the issue of autonomous artists since 1990s and analyse its logic behind histories and societies.


I live in Beijing for almost 20 years before moving to Shanghai. Mainly because I have stayed in the same place for a long time, ideas in my mind easily turn rigid and a Chinese zodiac sign horse who tends to roam lies in my destiny, I think for people, the geographical environment is very important. If one lives in a place for a long time, he or she may think things in a ritual way and treat many alive things dead, with which i don’t agree.

Furthermore, the autonomy of artists is a Chinese characteristic issue which getting less attention before. I joined in "Post-Sensibility" group in 1999 and at that time gallaries or museums for contemporary art which was still undergound thing were not accessible.Artists had to project their exhibitions all by themselves. All researches on the system and method in exhibitions were promoted in this situation. The advantage is that you can do your favorite things. Since curators belong to some systematic stuff,who will choose artists in their favor. To a large extent, that time is a "strong" exhibition time:Coming up with a concept for exhibition firstly, and then you offer your works to present this concept.

Another phenomenon is more exhibitions stay warm for each other by organizing everyone’s works together and present them all out in a joint exhibition because of the less opportunities for solo exhibitions. At that moment, That’s when China started to step in the context of contemporary art.In the past, what we focused on was the theme of ideological struggles or the blending of historical materials in contemporary art.Until 1990s, artists began to shift their attention from ideologies to the daily practices and artistic languages. Under the decrease of ideological struggles, critics had less voices because at that time China did not form a relevant system. In addition,people abroad were still in a phase of the symbolic consumption of China contemporary arts focusing on ideological struggles. On this occasion, many promotions and plannings about art were finished independently by artists. So the issue of autonomical artists standed out at that time. Many good exhibitions were projected by artists themselves totally.

From the 1990s until 2004,most exhibitions possessed a similar feature that artists played all the roles, schemers, participators and propagators, ect. There were no markets or these so-called markets were not active.Artists had their own jobs, so they had to do artistic things in their spare time. The year of 2004 is a crucial period.After 2004, markets become active. Until 2005 and 2006,more and more galleries come into people’s vision. At the same time,some non-profit spaces play very meaningful roles, for examples,Long March Space in Beijing and BizArt Art Centre in Shanghai. Artist Xu Zhen was making exhibitions in BizArt at that time who also featured as an autonomic artist more or less.

Some outstanding exhibitons such as "Post-Sensibility" in Beijing had been held several times.Exhibitions evolve stage by stage,from the earlist criticisms of the "idea-ism" and rigid conceptualism to the criticisms of exhibition systems and experiments on the methods of art, which emphasises on live qualities.In Shanghai,Xu Zhen, Yang Zhenzhong and Fei Ping Guo projected exhibitions one by one.Until 2004,a big change happened that the systems served for art become more sound.But this sound advance is somehow the result of commercial expansion. Moreover, exhibition making is still at a disadvantage, which leads the system of autonomic artists to disappear.Since the emergence of galleries, commercial sales makes artists become full-time artists. Markets have increasing influences on people and autonomic stuff turns to disappear. "Complete Art Experience Project" following "Post-Sensibility" just lasted for one year.Starting from the year of 2004,more and more spaces emerge in Beijing while we can see less group exhibitions but solo exhibitions,which relates with the manipulation of galleries.Usually, galleries only make exhibitions for their agent artists,which require comprehensive presentations of artistic works in the sake of galleries.Group exhibitions are more complexed but a group exhibition in Long March Space "NO NO" was still held to us.Ten artists projected this group exhibition together by negotiating in conferences.

It is an attraction for me that some autonomy of artists are reserved in Shanghai and that is why i move to Shanghai.I have ever made an exhibition "Bourgeoisified Proletariat". It is another group exhibition projected by artists independently after "NO NO". While a big problem come out that we need money. In the past,artists made an exhibition just in a day without opening and buyers. And for this group exhibition we have to order buses to pick up our audiences and employ workers to arrange the exhibiton rooms. So we met the lack of fonds.Finacial problem is an important reason why autonomic artists become less and less, even disappear.

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All That is Solid Melts into Air


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