Shi misses Ed in BJ

Friday, May 18th, 2007 (Posted 15 years, 1 month ago)

Time flies! I left London for two weeks ago already. Ed says the weather is not as nice as last month when we were buried in essays. In Beijing, the sand storm from Inner Mongolia made the city dry and windy. I was stuck at home, writing about a new media artist.

I will be working in Beijing for half a year this time – such a long period after I have been living in overseas for 7 years. The crowds, the traffic, the unpleasant weather and the dramatically changed appearance of the city make me feel a bit lost. I have found it’s difficult to concentrate on things. This is also because I miss Ed so much. We are both staying alone in London and Beijing. But distance will only help our relationship to become firmer. As Ed said, difficulties can be met together and will make us stronger. Thank you Ed, my love!


Tuesday, April 24th, 2007 (Posted 15 years, 2 months ago)

我会在北京工作6个月。我的工作是做策展人助手。今早刚刚收到‘老板’ email来的五一黄金周工作计划表。 着实另我大跌眼镜, 中午飞抵北京(13小时机程),当天的下午5点, 就要陪同各方策展人出席一家画廊的opening show. 但愿我的铁人精神可以发挥到及至。

我一走,Ed 就可怜了。 昨天早上他注视着我,热泪盈眶。熬过这一个月的论文奋战期,五一当天,我们俩都要‘上乘’ 两万四千字的论文给学校。翌日,我就要飞走,对他来说,实在是有点凄凉。更何况我们刚刚订婚就要小别,唉!Chao和小船安慰我说,小别胜新婚嘛,这会让彼此更加相惜相爱的。英文里也有相似的表达,叫做 ‘absence makes the heart grow fonder’. 看来英文汉语还是有异曲同工之处的。


Creative Journal needs a creative mind

Wednesday, April 18th, 2007 (Posted 15 years, 2 months ago)

What is Creative Journal? Creative Journal had a negative denotation for me at the early stage. I took Creative Journal as a piece of homework at the beginning because I did not understand why should I keep writing it every week, and who am I writing for. So I treated it as something that I had a duty to do.

Why I am writing? The uncertainty of writing became my motivation towards writing. Now I have a very positive feeling towards it. I realised that I am not writing for anyone but rather for myself. Whenever I read a good article, come back from a fantastic exhibition or have had an exciting discussion with course-mates, they all become very good resources for it. Gradually, the creative journal became one of my hobbies which records my thoughts, builds up my ideas and also keeps my mind busy with controversial issues within contemporary society.

Creative journal helps me to think seriously about what I have perceived, heard and also when I have given my own opinions towards contemporary issues. It differs from essays, one can write freely without restrictions from particular topics.
However, the fact is that I found all the subjects of which I am interested, actually interact with each other. For example I have been interested in whether Chinese contemporary architecture has been influenced by the Western idea of modernity. Meanwhile, I also keen to research whether Chinese contemporary art has its own identity or if it may be seen as a copy of the Western phenomenon. Both topics are relevant to the study of visual culture, and both issues had obvious effects in the City in China today.

Creative Journals help me to review what I have studied in the past, and make connections with similar contexts. It naturally draws a visual mind map for me, which helps me to analyze my mind and thinking.

Nevertheless, I have also met difficulties through writing. It was difficult to talk about things objectively. A piece of creative journal can be from a very personal point of view. However, I think it is good to not repeat what has been said in history, instead, to develop one’s own thought further based on today’s issues in various situations.

Theories are still very crucial for supporting one’s ideas and also to help to reveal contemporary issues. I also enjoyed in studying thinkers with differing viewpoints. Researching on a very specific subject can lead one into depth in this study area. Moreover, through long-term research, one may gain unexpected knowledge and find more interests. For example I wrote a series of discussions about ‘YCA (Young Chinese Artists) is on its way’, which is quite different from my studies of feminism. These require different style of wiring.

Among various subjects, I have been interested in the Chinese contemporary art market, in terms of how it has dramatically developed through the last 30 years. It has many influences from within and also outside of China. When Chinese indigenous culture suddenly becomes a source of creative motivation for Chinese artists, and their artworks become products, and these products are brought to the international market, afterwards, this market becomes hotter and hotter. I really want to know the reasons behind this.

In terms of Chinese contemporary art history, it is fascinating to see who is making it and how it has been constructed.

With my language advantage, I am also able to compare and contrast different ideas and philosophies towards contemporary art from the West and China. I have found that language plays an important role in terms of exchanging ideas. From many articles in Chinese publications, I have discovered how the Chinese perceive contemporary art. As Chinese contemporary art gradually becomes popular in the West today, many Western critics have had their attention drawn to it. One can easily come across art reviews or critical essays in many famous English-language art and theory magazines today, such as Art Forum, Art in America, Radical Philosophy and so on.

I feel fortunate that I am studying art theory and am able to associate with various viewpoints from both the Chinese and the Western sides towards contemporary art. Since then, I have not been satisfied with just being an observer. I have tried to apply my knowledge to them by using what I have learned through this course. For example, in ‘A Fake Conversation’, I joined the conversation among art critics (in this case Richard Vine and Christopher Phillips) and presented my own opinions. Another example will be ‘ “Aftershock” shocked me’ – a series of criticisms on the YBA British Contemporary Art show which is held in China this year. I focused on the fact that Tracy Emin’s ‘my bed’ was ‘castrated’ when the Chinese version of it appeared, and I reviewed in English in how the Chinese media presented this show. With the aim of encouraging Young Chinese Artists to be more creative and groundbreaking, one may sense the new cultural imperialism is coming in by the back door with the show.

Feminism studies is also one of my favourite subjects. It was quite shocking after studying feminism in art in the West. Women were not included in the Art circle for a long term throughout art history. In my journal, I took the opportunity to compare two compelling thinkers to show the ‘sexual difference’ between Luce Irigaray and Judith Butler. This helped me to obtain knowledge about Western cultural background as well as to look at contemporary art through this perspective.

I believe that creative journal needs a creative mind. A creative mind is not about thinking randomly, it will be developed little by little by continually writing it and being passionate, active and critical about one’s interests.


Wednesday, April 11th, 2007 (Posted 15 years, 2 months ago)

公历二千零七年 四月十一日 星期三
英国 伦敦
诗 和 爱德华

当你不再犹豫 不再踌躇

这一瞬间的影像 被记录在了陌生人们的眼眸



A fake Conversation

Monday, April 9th, 2007 (Posted 15 years, 2 months ago)

The following two quotes are taken from the March 2007 edition of Art in America, to which I have responded.

Richard Vine: Before the market explosion, critics like Li Xianting and independent curators like Fei Dawei, Feng Boyi and Gu Zhenqing played vital roles in identifying – or inventing – significant movements and highlighting the work of selected artists. What has become of those functions today? Does intellectual validation still matter, or has criticism become primarily work done for hire?

Christopher Phillips: As is the case in many places where contemporary art institutions are in their infancy, art-community members in China inevitably wear many hats. Someone who is an artist may also be writing critics, organizing museum exhibitions, running a commercial gallery, advising foreign collectors on a commission basis and teaching in an art academy. There is only a grudging awareness that these overlapping roles might involve conflicts of interests. All this will probably change as the Chinese art world becomes more professionalized in the coming decades. Nevertheless, at the moment enormous temptations are presented by the flood of money that’s rushing around in the Chinese art scene, and I think that very few curators now refrain from privately buying and selling works.

Shi Li: I don’t see why an Artist cannot also be critic, curator, collector, dealer or whatever they want to be at the same time. Especially, among today’s international art practice, it does not surprise me if one plays different roles in his or her life. In terms of becoming a ‘professionalised’, it seems to me one will be more likely to restrict oneself from accessing other interacted fields. ‘Conflicts of interests’ may occur, such as a scholar may be distracted from teaching by putting too much effort of curating exhibitions – however, theory and practise are good to be preformed at the same time. This is similar to why a good course in a university should be combined with a lab. Another example could be more serious than arranging one’s schedule, which is about the evaluation of a piece of art. This concerns one’s morality towards art, as one may argue that a curator may select artworks by their prices, or artists may produce their art by the whims of the art market. However, Chinese contemporary art environment may have its own function and system depending on its own situation. Perhaps, what the Chinese contemporary art needs is not a judgement but encouragement and advice.

Worrying about the Chinese contemporary art market

Monday, April 2nd, 2007 (Posted 15 years, 3 months ago)

In my previous journals, I have discussed how the foreign art collectors have become eagerly interested in collecting Chinese contemporary art. By doing so, this worldwide trend is actually creating a new ideology, which is affecting the valorisation of Chinese contemporary art. Or perhaps, we could put this another way around, there has not been a indigenous system of evaluating Chinese contemporary art, nevertheless, it will be formed by the Art Markets, to be more specific, it will be formed by Art collectors and dealers. Perhaps, one could say that this happens everywhere in the world. Why is China so special to be singled out?

There are two issues raised here for the Chinese to consider. Firstly, if an art market has no rules and no standard of evaluations, it more likely to have a shakeout whenever the rules are established; another danger is that the concept of the best Chinese contemporary art is being judged by a small group of people who are mainly from the West, and will be evaluated by the only norm available – money. The idea of the ‘artist’ may be tarnished with a bad reputation for being wishing to become rich.

Another Shock! – If you invite me, why should I bring an army?

Friday, March 30th, 2007 (Posted 15 years, 3 months ago)

Another Shock!
If you invite me, why should I bring an army?

This year, when the YBA show was held in Guangzhou, with the aim of encouraging Young Chinese Artists to be more creative and groundbreaking, one may sense the new Cultural imperialism is coming in by the back door. According to the Chinese website One of the aims of this show is to help Chinese audience to improve their understanding and taste towards contemporary art. I feel it’s questionable to accept this statement. I am considering how people in china judge contemporary art. What can be considered as a great piece of art should be based on different cultures and different esthetic evaluations. People from different culture background might have different appreciations of art. it is important to be acquainted with the YBA show but it should not be seen as a standard of judging what is the best Contemporary art. Different philosophical and develop mental environment provides different creative mentalities of producing artworks. It seems that creating one aesthetic principle for the entire world – cannot be accepted. The ‘Aftershock’ provides a great opportunity in presenting a standard western viewpoint of contemporary art to Chinese people. However, its didactic function should be considered again. Any kinds of art can be based on its historical milieu, and constructed through its unique authenticity. There should not be a hierarchy established among contemporary art practice. It is true that the YBA generation had its significant role at the end of the last century, and the artists are still active among today’s art practice in the UK. Like many other conceptual artists in China (such as Ai Weiwei and Qiu Zhijie), the various thoughts and concerns within their art have been thinking through different spiritualities.

To be continued…

‘Aftershock’ shocked me!!!

Thursday, March 29th, 2007 (Posted 15 years, 3 months ago)

‘Aftershock’ shocked me!!!

First Shock!
Tracey Emin’s underwear and condoms are missing…

I was so shocked after finding that Tracey Emin’s underwear and condoms are missing from the ‘Aftershock‘ – ‘Contemporary British Art’ Show in Guangzhou and Beijing, which has been showing since last December, and will be continuing till May. According to the article from, Pi Li, who is one of the curators of the show, explained that this is owing to the difficulties of transportation. What a wonderful excuse – it’s made the piece lose its value completely. It’s arguable the piece has lost its value without these significant elements – underwear and condoms, which Emin chose the first time she created the piece. When Charles Saatchi valued Emin’s ‘My Bed’ at 150,000£, these elements must have represented a significant part of that price. The artwork has lost a part of its original value. The ‘My Bad’ presented in China, is not Tracey Emin’s bed any more, it could be anyone else’s – you could say it has been castrated.

To be continued…

YCA era is on its way…? – continued

Thursday, March 29th, 2007 (Posted 15 years, 3 months ago)

What can Saatchi bring to (or take away from) China?

What can Saatchi bring to China? Money. This answer might be too direct and obvious. Although it is true that the contemporary Chinese art market has been very much occupied by the westerners, Charles Saatchi as a trailblazer has more power of changing the course of events. Infect, Chinese contemporary art needs the financial support too. Chinese contemporary artists need to be supported to be able to develop their work further and to be able to compete among the worldwide contemporary art environment. However, money is just the first step for people like Saatchi to get their feet in the Chinese door. One might say that Saatchi’s money has more power, which indicates ‘knowledge’ at the same time. This is because, his choice may influence many others, and his direction may manipulate many others to follow.

What can be taken away from China? The answer is still Money. One day, if the future YCAs finally become part of national heritage, Saatchi will be the one who owns the major part of it. This year, when the YBA show was held in Guangzhou, with the aim of encouraging Young Chinese Artists to be more creative and groundbreaking, one may sense the new imperialism is coming in by the back door.

To be continued…

YCA era is on its way…?

Wednesday, March 28th, 2007 (Posted 15 years, 3 months ago)

YCA era is on its way…?

I have been wondering why there have been no visitor guides in Chinese at the Tate modern or many other major museums and galleries in London. Not because there is no one interest in Chinese contemporary art. It might be the other way around, people think – there are less Chinese interested in Art, or to be specifically, contemporary art.

Charles Saatchi, who was instrumental in the YBA phenomena, has changed history again. Before his new Gallery has opened, his website team has already translated the Saatchi Gallery website into Chinese. Both the English and Chinese accessible Website doesn’t only demonstrate the internationally well-known gallery itself; it also accurately reflects the attitude of the Western art market. Why? There are reasons as below:

What is Stuart?

Stuart is a website, which created by Saatchi Gallery. Its aim is to provide a platform, which allows artists to present artworks from all over the world. According to the New York Times, there are 23 Chinese art students who presented their work in Stuart so far. As Saatchi says, ‘There are so many artists in China who want their work to be seen’. And also, the students want to know what’s going on around the world.

Behind the prefect idea…

Stuart sounds prefect! Perhaps everyone would think this is a prefect idea that young students don’t have to deal with local galleries anymore, instead, they can easily open an account and post their work on the Saatchi Gallery website. At the same time, many international galleries and dealers can also make direct contact with artists if they are interested in their work. It is free (by which I mean their appear to be no restrictions), democratic and easy to access. It may attract more art collectors to the site, and it is also providing possibilities that many Young Chinese artists’ work might be collected at an early age. However, there are also concerns, which cannot be ignored.

The phenomenon of the YBA (Young British artists) transforms to the YCA (Young Chinese Artists)

How do you value a piece of art? The most direct evaluation may be by price. At the end of the last century, when the art world were still speculating whether Tracey Emin was a great artist, Saatchi gave the answer by adding ‘My Bed’ to his collection for 150,000£. With his foresight and wealthy background, Saatchi had enough clout in making part of Western art history. Today, in tandem with a dramatically expending Chinese economy, the Chinese art market also wields great power of drawing attention from collectors from all over the world. Unsurprisingly, Charles Saatchi is still at the top of the list.

After Saatchi has collected many Chinese contemporary artworks from the avant-gardes, such as Fang Lijun and Zhang Xiaogang. He turned his attention onto Young Chinese Artists. Is this a sign that this could be a repetition of the YBA phenomena in China? (In this sense, the term YBA should be written in YCA) One might think this is great as without the government support and limited promotion through galleries, Chinese Contemporary Art has its own way to survive by presenting internationally and being collected by foreigners (mainly American and British).

A western discourse might be created in China.

However, things always have pros and cons. A western discourse might be created in China. I have many questions in mind: What is a great piece of Art? Why art is being so easily judged by its price? Is there not a danger that Chinese Contemporary Art will be diverted into western criteria i.e. that what is the best Art is based on a western point of view? Who is making Chinese contemporary art history? Or the term Art History will no longer exist, which will be replaced by Visual Culture. Then, this is must be an international one. The Chinese have not undergone the Enlightenment, Modernity or Postmodernity. One could argue that the whole idea of ‘grand narrative’ does not exist in China, or it does but it is the different one and within the different ‘discourse’. I guess that might be one of the reasons why Chinese contemporary art is so fascinating to the westerners.

To be continued…