Approaches to Contemporary Chinese Art: Video Screenings and Pop-up Exhibitions

Approaches to Contemporary Chinese Art: Video Screenings and Pop-up Exhibitions

January 8, 2024

Single-channel video Installation: Campus North Parking
Zhu Jia 朱加, Forever, 1994. Single-channel video, 7 minutes, 7 seconds. Video on loan from ShangART Gallery. Installation Location: Campus North Parking

During this past Fall quarter, students from Dr. Ellen Larson’s seminar “Approaches to Contemporary Chinese Art” curated a pop-up exhibition and screening series titled Ephemeral Architectures: early video and performance art from China. Ephemeral Architectures showcased rich and multifaceted histories of Chinese video, performance, and exhibition documentation from the 1990s and early 2000s. Engaging in curation as research, this student led collaboration explored intersections between the creation and exhibition of early Chinese video and performance art. Ephemeral Architectures also underscored ways in which the birth and maturation of Chinese video and performance art closely aligns with China’s globalizing urban contexts and unique economic conditions.   

The pop-up exhibition, which was staged across UChicago’s campus, included works by artists Kan Xuan, Liang Yue, Yang Zhenzhong and Zhu Jia, on loan from UCLA’s Hammer Museum and Shanghai’s ShangART Gallery. Collectively, these artists all share an interest in creating work that contemplates our everyday relationships with time, space, and memory.  

On November 11 and 12, a two-part screening series was held in conjunction with the pop-up exhibition. Post-screening roundtable discussions included Nancy P. Lin, Klarman Postdoctoral Fellow in History of Art and Visual Studies at Cornell University, internationally acclaimed contemporary artist Song Dong, California State University, Northridge Professor Dr. Meiqin Wang, and Washburn University Lecturer Dr. Madeline Eschenburg.   

Program content came from University of Chicago’s Harrie A. Vanderstappen Distinguished Service Professor and CAEA Director Wu Hung’s newly digitized archive of Chinese video and performance art. Through his work with contemporary Chinese artists, Wu Hung has developed a collection of rare contemporary Chinese art documents saved in their original analog VHS format. These VHS tapes include both seldom and never before seen documents of performance art from the 1990s, exhibition views from groundbreaking exhibitions staged throughout the 1990s and early 2000s, as well as works of early contemporary video art. The Wu Hung Contemporary Chinese Video Art Archive is now available to the UChicago community via CNetID login, including alumni via the LUNA database managed by the Visual Resources Center (VRC). Researchers not affiliated with the University of Chicago are invited to request guest access to the collection by completing this brief form, which will ask for your name, date of birth, and address.   

This program series was made possible thanks to the Center for East Asian Studies at the University of Chicago with generous support from a Title VI National Resource Center Grant from the U.S. Department of Education, and the University of Chicago’s Parrhesia Program for Public Discourse. Additional support is provided by UChicago’s College Curricular Innovation and Undergraduate Research Fund, the Department of Art History, the Visual Resources Center, and the Center for the Art of East Asia