The ongoing thoughts of an art teacher in China - and home in Sydney

A continuing diary about my travels in China, and thoughts about China and Chinese art from home and abroad

Friday, June 3, 2011

books books and more books about chinese art

Tao Aimin, Book of Women, Installation and Performance

I am a little bit obsessed with and cannot seem to stop myself buying books about Chinese contemporary art. I keep telling myself that it is all for the purpose of writing my research paper and summarising the results of my travelling scholarship but really I have just become an obsessive collector of all things related to the Chinese art world. Was thrilled to find that my fabulous book of essays from Timezone 8 in Beijing arrived within a week, and today I came home to find yet another package on my doorstep, 'China Under Construction: Contemporary Art from the People's Republic' edited by curator and critic Maya Kovskaya. It includes fantastic photography by Zhan Wang and documentation of performance art by Han Bing,

as well as Tao Aimin's 'Book of Women', an installation created of rural women's washboards, tied with jute cord and arranged in unlikely sites.

Zhan Wang, Scholar Rock

Han Bing, Me and My Cabbage at Suma Bay - documentation of performance

Kovskaya's catalogue essay positions post 1990s art as moving beyond the 'easy' exoticism and Mao-era tropes of the Political Pop and Cynical Realist Artists, which she identifies as a kind of colonialist or orientalist discourse. New art in China is art made in and about a world which is 'no longer an insular, autarchic world, but rather a globalising, chaotic world where the old divisions no longer make sense and "signs of the times" engage in regular and bi-directional border crossings.'

I am especially interested in the work of Tao Aimin, given my interest in finding female artists to interview whilst I was in China, and the incomprehension with which my questions about any kind of gender divide were met by most  people I spoke to, both male and female.Here is an article about her from NY Arts Magazine:

 Tao Amin collected hundreds of wooden washboards from rural women, and has used them in a series of installation works relating to the repetitive and exhausting labor of their lives - a kind of homage to their invisibility. They have the appearance of ancient calligraphy scrolls, and in that way her work can be connected to that of Gu Wenda or Xu Bing. They are also a comment about the lack of literacy of the women who used them - this 'book' of women is written with the memory of their labor in the daily objects they used each day.
Tao Aimin, Book of Women, Installation