There is more to Chinese art than Ai Weiwei – that is the message from the organisers of the UK’s largest ever exhibition of contemporary art from China, Taiwan and Hong Kong.
More than 30 artists are giving a snapshot of current Chinese art with an exhibition across six venues under the title Harmonious Society, part of Manchester’s Asian art triennial.
Politics is not the main motivation for most artists, according to curator Jiang Jiehong, professor of Chinese art at Birmingham City University – but those who do tackle political subjects do so with “a particular sense of humour”.
For his sculpture Long Live The Great Union, Yang Zhenzhong has created nine free-standing blocks that appear disjointed until the viewer looks through a small window. From that angle, it becomes clear that the blocks make up a replica of the Tiananmen Tower in Beijing. It is at the National Football Museum.
Jin Feng’s Chinese Plates are printing blocks featuring texts from China’s constitution of human rights. Like normal printing blocks, the text is written in reverse, making it difficult to read. The plates are on show at the John Rylands Library and ArtWork in Salford.
Taiwanese artist Chen Chieh-jen has created a four-screen video installation about the country’s first leprosy hospital. There were protests when the government decided to demolish the building to expand Taipei’s metro system in 1994. The film, titled Realm of Reverberations, is on show at the Museum of Science and Industry.
These books in the 19th Century John Rylands Library appear to be alive, each gently rising and falling as they breathe. Breathing Books by Wang Yuyang, in the library’s Historic Reading Room, are meant to show that the written word is “a living, breathing force”.
Shanghai-based Liu Jianhua’s Boxing Times features 14 suspended porcelain boxing gloves, each bearing an inscription of a different country’s name written in its native language on the sleeve. The work is at the National Football Museum.
Samson Young’s instructions for a “muted lecture of music of political process” are in the John Rylands Library. Hong Kong-based Young also stages muted concerts – in which musicians are asked to play with the same vigour as usual, just without making any noise.
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