OCAT Shanghai is proud to present 8102 – On Reality, the sixth installment of our annual emerging artists exhibition series, which will also mark the final exhibition in our current space. In a departure from the curatorial direction of the previous editions, which evinced a sharp focus on topical issues, the six artists featured in 8102 have been selected for their dedicated and longstanding explorations of distinct creative languages and media; by assembling works spanning different periods, 8102 presents a realistic landscape of the narrative and evaluative peculiarities, the imaginative visions, of Chinese artists from the ‘80s and ‘90s generations.
The exhibition takes its title, 8012, from a satirical Internet meme that nonsensically jumbles the digits of the year 2018, in a comment on the always-becoming-obsolete nature of reality. In an exhibition context, “8012” becomes a signifier of young artists’ responses to this pressing topic. While Jiang Zhuyun employs screens and other technical devices to expose personal experience and memory to the audience, producing moments of self-reflection in physical space, Feng Chen experiments with moving images by introducing absurd conflicts to everyday life, thereby exploring quotidian manifestations of the democratization of technology. Yang Jian’s practice may ostensibly seem unconcerned with personal experience, but the artist in fact invokes deeply emotional motifs like ridicule and empathy to resonate with universal experience. While Shen Xin uses the camera lens to pose the most candid questions about the “dislocation” of reality, Wang Tuo uses the varied media of moving image, text and painting to generate collective portraits of the social realities he has observed both here and overseas. Last but not least, Ma Haijiao has developed a “moving-image-driven” conceptual framework over his years of practice, and uses a charged sense of temporality to combat the humdrum aspects of life today.
In contemporary China, while the growth of the art world depends, of course, on the more pragmatic considerations of the real world, the relation between the two spheres remains subtle, ambiguous and frail. Although the boundaries of art keep expanding into the everyday, as leviathan institutions like biennials and art fairs compete for public attention, art increasingly tends to fall into vast yet opaque narrative structures; perhaps art is never more to reality than a landscape fulfilling a momentary need for novelty. As once specialized artistic methods grow increasingly commonplace, contemporary artists become ever more susceptible to the blind pursuit of some simplistic ideals of “authenticity” or “success,” while art itself, in this process, is assimilated into a chain of “cultural industries”—eventually surrendering its distinct character in service of the prosaic and humdrum demands of living reality.
For most young artists today, the world does not seem so friendly. While their work may present novel languages, diverse perspectives and infinite possibility, they are nonetheless at the mercy of reality, in ways both tangible and not. On the one hand, they must choose between art and making a living, while on the other hand they are confronted by pressures from within the established systems of art; they are living in a highly structured and stratified era, while navigating a convoluted vanity fair. Those individuals who choose to identify as “artists” are ultimately, whatever their methods, situated in reality for better or worse; art does not tend to resolve current issues in a timely manner, neither can it easily change the social structures supporting it. But, be it in with “pessimistic” compromise or “optimistic” resistance, artists are always responding to reality, while looking for their own answers.
Welcome to 8102, a world about reality.