Dazed Digital


China Remix: Asian Creative Culture

September 26, 2011

An in-depth interview with celebrated curator Kimiko Mitani Woo about her recent exhibition that explores China's new attitude to contemporary art

  • Text by Terence Teh

As part of the Asian Creative Culture Exhibition that was recently held in London at the Red Gallery, "China Remix" is a collection of four celebrated artists from Shanghai - Woog, Momorobo, Francis Lam and Matthew Carey - that represent the Post-80s generation of new wave Chinese artists. Curated by Kimiko Mitani Woo who runs the artist agency MW Company, it's an insight into a new look China from a life-changing era. Satellite Voices speaks to Kimiko about this generation and the artists involved.

Satellite Voices: Can you introduce us to China’s 80s generation and what is different with these artists and what came before?
Kimiko Mitani Woo: They are the children born under the one-child policy after the Cultural Revolution. They grow up in the vortex of change socially and culturally, during rapid economic growth, while strongly rooted in China's socialism policy. They epitomise the new generation of Chinese who were born and raised in this life-changing era.

The theme of this exhibition, by living in the remix of old and new, is how the Post-80s generation have adapted. And it keeps evolving. Although there is the tendency of those who lack the flexibility, and are anxious of their future living in this duality of society, the word "freedom" totally matches their style. They have the exceptional ability to absorb new things and break through the old perception in a new way. You need to learn who these Post-80s artists are in order to learn about the now of China. The strong creative energy that has been hidden is starting to bubble up on the surface and evolve energetically and dynamically.

SV: What is new China style?
Kimiko Mitani Woo: China is the only country and culture that has the closest distance between the old and the new. Against this background, the Post-80s artists have strong aspirations of independence and are globally minded. They aspire to integrate new techniques and foreign cultures, yet they don't seem to dive into it 100%.

Maybe because it is a strong national character of the Chinese to embrace their roots and heritage. Among upcoming artists in China, there are artworks featuring their tradition and history as well as their memory of their childhood expressed in radical way. This is the remix style of China.

To name a few artists, Sun Xun born in 1980, from Liao Ning Province and creates black and white animations that combine hand-drawn renderings and traditional materials using a new medium to explore how history is made and passed down from generations to generations.

Another artist named Maleonn living in Shanghai is a photographer whose parents worked as Beijing Opera actors. His photography features a lot of nostalgic elements such as opera costume, props, and masks. The tonality of his photography is very much like theatre. Lately he has been going to antique markets, collecting old portraitures of Chinese people for his future works. These portraitures were hidden or thrown away during the Cultural Revolution and he wants to explore this area further.

SV: Are there other themes or attitudes that link or represent these new artists from China?
Kimiko Mitani Woo: It is difficult to say since every one of these artists has a different approach. But definitely, they are diverse. The first Chinese artist that was drawn to my attention was Chi Peng (images 1 & 2) from Beijing. He is a great photographer who has been acclaimed internationally. I curated his first solo show called "Paranomia" at Diesel Denim Gallery Aoyama in 2009. It was my first effort to introduce new Chinese art in Japan. His representative works are about him sprinting around naked all over Beijing. Using his own body to confront himself, he transcends the limits of oneself by running away from all his shackles, from pressures, from parents and drastic environmental changes. He is another Post-80's artist and this is the transformation, the new way of self expression of a new generation of young Chinese.

SV: You have curated a collection of artists that are very diverse - can you tell me more about your approach to the exhibition?
Kimiko Mitani Woo: MW Company's mission is to explore new cutting edge artist that transcends conventional art. Not necessarily a fine artist, but whoever has a great creative mind, we would like to introduce to the world. For Asian Creative Culture, we have the same philosophy in selecting artists. We wanted to diversify the genre of art by introducing the "new" china art and design scene to go beyond people's expectations. We wanted to show what the world has not seen yet. And it is something that is happening in China created not only fine artists but people with a unique vision.

It was a great opportunity to introduce the drastic changes in the Chinese creative scene and I hope that this will be a great stimulation for upcoming young creators in China as well as its government, who can give more support for creative activities. For this particular selection of artists, each are already a very strong candidate but I was very interested in the chemistry of bringing these four artists together. It is an experimental trial for us all. In this exhibition, the collaboration ended up to be quite minimal due to budget. But I hope in our next round, we will be able to demonstrate this dynamism of collaboration. I will keep you posted.

SV: Can you introduce the artists involved?
Kimiko Mitani Woo: Woog - the beauty of Woog's work (images 3 & 4) is about high quality design and outstanding boldness in colour. Many of his works are based on his roots as a Chinese.

MOMOROBO's work (images 5 & 6) is full of energy and youthfulness. They create their own characters which are vivid and alive. This unit is definitely one of representatives of China now.

Matthew Carey (image 7) is the only non-chinese out of the four artists based in Shanghai. Matthew is a musical creative, composer, and producer of music for any and all kinds of stuff that moves. He is also an amazing singer. One of his signature karaoke tunes is 上海灘, a pop anthem from Hong Kong in the 80s.

Francis Lam is the founder of db-db.com as well as a pixel artist (images 8 & 9), his amazing creations are fun and kitsch. It is a new way to enjoy digital contents. The social network that he's been developing in China will be a new creative platform for Chinese creators to communicate and mingle. He is definitely one of the creators in China to lead and inspire the digital technology culture that has more than two hundred millions net users.

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