Archive: China
This video got banned from the Guggenheim Museum

This video got banned from the Guggenheim Museum

Sun Yuan and Peng Yu - Dogs Which Cannot Touch Each Other, 2003
Sun Yuan and Peng YuDogs Which Cannot Touch Each Other, 2003, 8 Bull Terriers, 8 Running Machines Without Drive

The video work titled Dogs That Cannot Touch Each Other has only recently been removed from Guggenheim Museum’s exhibition series known as Art and China after 1989: Theater of the World. The video series has been met with disapproval and disparagement not only by some art critics but animal lovers and welfare organizations as well. Critics claim that the exhibition would have featured a series of various distinct video presentations depicting instances of unmistakable and unacceptable animal cruelty in the name of art.

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Faces of the Arab Spring riots: The public, patriots and villains

Faces of the Arab Spring riots: The public, patriots and villains

Shirin Neshat - Installation view of The Book of Kings at Faurschou Foundation Beijing. Photo by Jonathan Leijonhufvud 1
Shirin Neshat – Installation view of The Book of Kings at Faurschou Foundation Beijing
Photo by Jonathan Leijonhufvud

The Gladstone Gallery and the Faurschou Foundation in Beijing, China are just some of the art spaces that have had the pleasure of exhibiting Shirin Neshat’s The Book of Kings. The exhibition consisted of a total of 56 black and white photos framed in unmated and black frames that were hung across the two galleries. Neshat, “persona non grata” in Iran due to her art, created the photographs to reference a broad array of important and modern political metaphors.

Shirin’s exhibit was motivated by the series of political uprisings, now commonly known as the Arab Spring, which took place throughout different Arab countries between 2011 and 2012. The Book of Kings explored the causal conditions of power within social and cultural structures in the modern society. The title of the installation was inspired by the 60,000-verse historical poem known as Shahnameh or the Book of Kings in English. 11th-century poet Ferdowsi created the ancient poem that inspired the title of the exhibition, and it chronicled the history of Iran throughout its 7th century Islamic conquest of Persia.

Managing to interweave history, politics, and poetry in one exhibition, Shirin Neshat was able to set the series against the backdrop of the Arab Spring perfectly. Just as Ferdowsi cast the Islamic conquest of Persia as a catastrophe, Neshat’s photographs were also created to commemorate the masses of unknown citizens who sacrificed themselves to see justice and political freedom upheld across many Arab and Middle East countries.

Shirin Neshat’s photographs consisted of three groups of large-scale black and white pictures; hand annotated pictures with poetry, and pictures featuring prison writings that had been done in Farsi calligraphy. These three groups of photographs represented the villains, the patriots, and the public that participated in the Arab Spring riots.

The portraits were hung in a grid covering a whole wall. The portraits featured head shots of both serious looking men and women. The subjects represented the nuances of group emotion during the riots from aspiration and resignation to hope and uncertainty.

Unlike the villains’ section, the patriot segment featured torso level portraits of young subjects placing their hands over their chests. The expressions on these subjects were more intense to include expressions of defiance, pride, and even hatred. The calligraphic elements on the skin of these subjects were larger and bolder as if shouting the expressions rather than whispering them.

Lastly, the villains’ category of the series consisted of pictures of older men. The calligraphic details were elaborate and were placed across the bare chest of the male subjects like tattoos. Observed together, all the three categories represented metaphors, symbols, and emotions that accompany political movements like the Arab Spring.

Shirin Neshat - Installation view of The Book of Kings at Faurschou Foundation Beijing. Photo by Jonathan Leijonhufvud
Shirin Neshat – Installation view of The Book of Kings at Faurschou Foundation Beijing
Photo by Jonathan Leijonhufvud

Shirin Neshat - Installation view of The Book of Kings at Faurschou Foundation Beijing. Photo by Jonathan Leijonhufvud
Shirin Neshat – Installation view of The Book of Kings at Faurschou Foundation Beijing
Photo by Jonathan Leijonhufvud

Shirin Neshat - Installation view of The Book of Kings at Faurschou Foundation Beijing. Photo by Jonathan Leijonhufvud
Shirin Neshat – Installation view of The Book of Kings at Faurschou Foundation Beijing
Photo by Jonathan Leijonhufvud

Shirin Neshat - Installation view of The Book of Kings at Faurschou Foundation Beijing. Photo by Jonathan Leijonhufvud
Shirin Neshat – Installation view of The Book of Kings at Faurschou Foundation Beijing
Photo by Jonathan Leijonhufvud

Shirin Neshat - Installation view of The Book of Kings at Faurschou Foundation Beijing. Photo by Jonathan Leijonhufvud
Shirin Neshat – Installation view of The Book of Kings at Faurschou Foundation Beijing
Photo by Jonathan Leijonhufvud

Shirin Neshat - Installation view of The Book of Kings at Faurschou Foundation Beijing. Photo by Jonathan Leijonhufvud
Shirin Neshat – Installation view of The Book of Kings at Faurschou Foundation Beijing
Photo by Jonathan Leijonhufvud

Shirin Neshat - Installation view of The Book of Kings at Faurschou Foundation Beijing. Photo by Jonathan Leijonhufvud
Shirin Neshat – Installation view of The Book of Kings at Faurschou Foundation Beijing
Photo by Jonathan Leijonhufvud

Shirin Neshat - Installation view of The Book of Kings at Faurschou Foundation Beijing. Photo by Jonathan Leijonhufvud
Shirin Neshat – Installation view of The Book of Kings at Faurschou Foundation Beijing
Photo by Jonathan Leijonhufvud

Shirin Neshat – Salah (Patriots), 2012, from Book of Kings
Shirin NeshatSalah (Patriots), 2012, from The Book of Kings

Shirin Neshat - Sara Khaki (Patriots), 2012, from Book of Kings
Shirin NeshatSara Khaki (Patriots), 2012, from The Book of Kings

Shirin Neshat – Roja (Patriots), 2012, from Book of Kings
Shirin NeshatRoja (Patriots), 2012, from The Book of Kings

Shirin Neshat - Muhammed (Patriots), 2012, from Book of Kings
Shirin NeshatMuhammed (Patriots), 2012, from The Book of Kings

Shirin Neshat - Nida (Patriots), 2012, from Book of Kings
Shirin NeshatNida (Patriots), 2012, from The Book of Kings

Shirin Neshat - Mana (Masses), 2012, from Book of Kings
Shirin NeshatMana (Masses), 2012, from The Book of Kings

Shirin Neshat - Salah (Masses), 2012, from Book of Kings
Shirin NeshatSalah (Masses), 2012, from The Book of Kings

Shirin Neshat - Sara Nafisi, 2012, from Book of Kings
Shirin NeshatSara Nafisi, 2012, from The Book of Kings

Shirin Neshat – Amir (Villians), 2012, from Book of Kings
Shirin NeshatAmir (Villains), 2012, from The Book of Kings

Shirin Neshat – Sherief (Villains), 2012, from Book of Kings
Shirin NeshatSherief (Villains), 2012, from The Book of Kings

Shirin Neshat – Bahram (Villains), 2012, from Book of Kings
Shirin NeshatBahram (Villains), 2012, from The Book of Kings

Shirin Neshat - Detail of Bahram (Villians), from Book of Kings
Shirin Neshat – Detail of Bahram (Villains), 2012, from The Book of Kings

Shirin Neshat in her studio working on Roja from "The Book of Kings"
Shirin Neshat in her studio working on Roja from The Book of Kings


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Impressive photos of massive industrial landscapes show China’s transformation

Impressive photos of massive industrial landscapes show China’s transformation

Edward Burtynsky - Manufacturing #17, Deda Chicken Processing Plant, Dehui City, Jilin Province, 2005
Edward BurtynskyManufacturing #17, Deda Chicken Processing Plant, Dehui City, Jilin Province, China, 2005

For Edward Burtynsky, photography is much more than immortalizing a scene; while his focus is on taking photos, he is keen on sharing his point of view with the rest of the world. One of the most outstanding aspects of his works is his ability to connect to the real world. China for instance is a massive country, comprised of 3.7-million-square-miles of manufacturing landscape and that means people are busy all the time. What is a picture of China without a hint of humanity? The many pictures Burtynsky has taken of China appear to be carefully thought out; each one makes use of a location that not only captures what is happening on a large-scale, but also the people who make it happen.

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Walking the length of the Great Wall of China only to break up

Walking the length of the Great Wall of China only to break up

 Marina Abramovic - The Lovers - The Great Wall Walk
Marina AbramovicThe Lovers: The Great Wall Walk (still), 1988/2008, performed for 90 days along The Great Wall of China. 16mm film transferred to two-channel video

Artists Marina Abramovic and Ulay are known in many parts of the world as the lovers whose relationship ended at the Great Wall of China. Initially, when the couple planned the trip, they intended to get married at the center of the wall. However, it was years later when the couple finally acquired all the authorization required from the Chinese government and were able to raise funds for the projected. Sadly, by then, the couple’s 12-year relationship has crumbled and what started out as a marriage celebration turned into last goodbyes for the couple. The couple had planned to be the first people to walk the entirety of the Great Wall, however, they were beaten to the punch by a Chinese railway clerk.

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Stunning flexible sculptures are not what they seem

Stunning flexible sculptures are not what they seem


Li HongboTeaching Aid, 2014, paper

Li Hongbo is an artist based in Beijing, China and creates unusual and surprising art pieces from paper. A designer and book editor, Li Hongbo started collecting and experimenting his ideas with paper after being inspired by the festive ‘paper gourd’ decorations and traditional Chinese boys’ toys. Both of these pieces have a simple but amazing ‘honeycomb’ composition and can be molded into any shape.

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Everything they own: Intimate portraits of Chinese families

Everything they own: Intimate portraits of Chinese families

Huang Qingjun – Family Stuff
Huang QingjunFamily Stuff

Normally, life is viewed from the perspective of people as they appear in public. It is not unusual to come across a rich looking individual only to realize that their background or where they call home is not as lavish. When what we consider to be normal is transformed inside out, then a whole new dynamism of sights emerges. When Huang Qingjun took his first family picture of such nature in 2003, it would be the beginning of a new view in photography. Together with Ma Hongjie, they have for 10 years now been capturing scenes of life in its fragility.

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One of the most disgusting performance pieces ever made

One of the most disgusting performance pieces ever made

Zhang Huan - 12M2, 1994, documentation of a 40-minute performance
Zhang Huan12 Square Meters, 1994, single channel video, 3min 2sec, documentation of a 40-minute performance

Zhang Huan is no stranger to controversy. Having attended school at a time when China was undergoing a dramatic time in its history, Zhang learned a lot from the years of protests and demonstrations that would be staged in front of the Tiananmen Square in Beijing. As an avid fan of Avant-garde art, Zhang did not really have adequate resources at his disposal that would allow him to execute his artistic vision. As such, and not surprisingly, Zhang decided to change the way he expressed himself by adopting a more provocative and transgressive form of performance art, which was later photographed and documented.

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