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Stop Press is ISBN Magazine’s guide to happenings in Hong Kong. From art to auctions and from food to fashion, to entertainment, cinema, sport, wine and design, scroll through the best of the city's dynamic cultural offerings. And if your event merits mention in our little book of lifestyle chic, write to us at stoppress@isbn-magazine.com

China's shot of avant-garde

Miss C, 1994, Zhang Haier

During the Cold War era following World War II, China was a closed country up to the Cultural Revolution of the 1970s. Photography for those 30 years was mostly limited to official media and private family portraits. The Cultural Revolution (1966-76) sought to destroy artistic and intellectual heritage of centuries of imperial rule. After the death of Mao Zedong in 1976, China under his successor Deng Xiaoping began to pull back the curtain and gaze out. The April Photo Society took the lead in a 1979 Beijing exhibition titled "Nature, Society, Human," a significant shift in which the photographic focus switched from politics to art. However, the country was still mostly rural, poor, censorship was severe, and artists were eyed with equal parts derision and suspicion. [Photographers in China were still being arrested or detained in the mid-1990s]. Nonetheless, a revolution in Chinese photography started in the early 1980s - the post-Mao/pre-McDonald's era in which China's long-term destiny and immediate direction wasn't at all clear - with the birth of the New Wave art movement, economic development and the influx of Western ideology and pop culture. 


And then came 1989. 


The "China/Avant-Garde Art Exhibition" opened at the National Art Gallery in Beijing, featuring installation, photography, performance and video works. Chinese artist Xiao Lu shot to fame overnight when she fired a loaded gun at her work Dialogue on the show's opening day and modernism in China halted in that moment. Four months later, a man, a tank and Tiananmen Square silenced a captivated world. Just as Chinese photography had been about to reach an important turn, it came to a standstill, an impasse between man, machine and the void between. 


During this time, and thereafter, as much as critiquing or not the establishment's present, future or past, these independent photographic voices - 12 of whom are showcased here including notables like Ai Weiwei, Gu Zheng, Zhang Haier and RongRong, the curator - began producing experimental, and highly individual work, much of which was published in New Photo magazine, launched in 1996, China's first such independently-run title, co-founded by RongRong and Liu Zheng. Much work expressed a sense of people's fear, isolation, ambiguity to identity, and laid the blueprint for much of what followed. China's journey from 'New Documentary' photography, to conceptual and then experimental photography in one long avant-garde flash makes striking and surprising revision for apres-garde eyes. A cultural revolution in the history of photography. 

New Framework: Chinese Avant-garde photography 1980s-90s. Blindspot Gallery (Central) and Blindspot Annex (Wong Chuk Hang). Until June 22.

Image: Zhang Haier, Miss C, 1994.

Admin

China's shot of avant-garde

Miss C, 1994, Zhang Haier

During the Cold War era following World War II, China was a closed country up to the Cultural Revolution of the 1970s. Photography for those 30 years was mostly limited to official media and private family portraits. The Cultural Revolution (1966-76) sought to destroy artistic and intellectual heritage of centuries of imperial rule. After the death of Mao Zedong in 1976, China under his successor Deng Xiaoping began to pull back the curtain and gaze out. The April Photo Society took the lead in a 1979 Beijing exhibition titled "Nature, Society, Human," a significant shift in which the photographic focus switched from politics to art. However, the country was still mostly rural, poor, censorship was severe, and artists were eyed with equal parts derision and suspicion. [Photographers in China were still being arrested or detained in the mid-1990s]. Nonetheless, a revolution in Chinese photography started in the early 1980s - the post-Mao/pre-McDonald's era in which China's long-term destiny and immediate direction wasn't at all clear - with the birth of the New Wave art movement, economic development and the influx of Western ideology and pop culture. 


And then came 1989. 


The "China/Avant-Garde Art Exhibition" opened at the National Art Gallery in Beijing, featuring installation, photography, performance and video works. Chinese artist Xiao Lu shot to fame overnight when she fired a loaded gun at her work Dialogue on the show's opening day and modernism in China halted in that moment. Four months later, a man, a tank and Tiananmen Square silenced a captivated world. Just as Chinese photography had been about to reach an important turn, it came to a standstill, an impasse between man, machine and the void between. 


During this time, and thereafter, as much as critiquing or not the establishment's present, future or past, these independent photographic voices - 12 of whom are showcased here including notables like Ai Weiwei, Gu Zheng, Zhang Haier and RongRong, the curator - began producing experimental, and highly individual work, much of which was published in New Photo magazine, launched in 1996, China's first such independently-run title, co-founded by RongRong and Liu Zheng. Much work expressed a sense of people's fear, isolation, ambiguity to identity, and laid the blueprint for much of what followed. China's journey from 'New Documentary' photography, to conceptual and then experimental photography in one long avant-garde flash makes striking and surprising revision for apres-garde eyes. A cultural revolution in the history of photography. 

New Framework: Chinese Avant-garde photography 1980s-90s. Blindspot Gallery (Central) and Blindspot Annex (Wong Chuk Hang). Until June 22.

Image: Zhang Haier, Miss C, 1994.

Admin