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Posts Tagged ‘Dinu Li’

ArtSway Associate Dinu Li’s new solo exhibition on China’s past and present – two Art Radar interviews

Posted by artradar on September 11, 2010


BRITISH-CHINESE ARITST PHOTOGRAPHY NEW MEDIA MULTIMEDIA RESIDENCY INTERVIEW

QUAD Gallery at Derby, UK presents UK and China-based artist Dinu Li’s past, recent and newly commissioned works in a solo showYesterday is History, Tomorrow is Mystery. This show is partly supported by the ArtSway Associates scheme that Dinu Li is a member of. In this interview, Li discusses the creative inspiration behind his works and ArtSway introduces its unique programme, too.

Dinu Li’s work draws together China’s past and present in a range of medium, including photography, film, video and recently performance. Informed by his personal experiences and thanks to his astute observations, he is fascinated by the spaces in between the personal and political, the public and private. Across all his projects, Li has explored these themes: time, space, change, where things come from, where things go to next, the essence of culture and the interrogation of a vernacular.

Family Village, 2009 Installation view at ArtSway’s New Forest Pavilion, the 53rd Venice Biennale. Courtesy of artist

'Family Village' (2009). Installation view at ArtSway’s New Forest Pavilion at the 53rd Venice Biennale. Image courtesy of the artist.

In 2009, Dinu Li was selected to take up a residency at ArtSway, the contemporary visual arts venue in the New Forest, Hampshire, UK. ArtSway provides full curatorial support, mentoring and advisory support for all of their selected artists. After his residency, Dinu Li was invited to become an ArtSway Associate, a scheme providing legacy support for ongoing development and mentoring with Mark Segal, ArtSway’s director, and other industry professionals.

Art Radar Asia interviewed Dinu Li and ArtSway curator Peter Bonnell to discuss Li’s works and ArtSway’s initiatives.

Dinu Li on his works and inspirations

Your work deals a lot with the passing of time by drawing together China’s past and present. Which elements of China’s past and present do you highlight and put in contrast to each other? And why?

Since 2001 I have spent more and more time in China. Over this period, I have seen and experienced a tremendous amount of change taking place throughout the country, at an epic, breathless and almost seismic scale of transformation. This is most noticeable when walking in a neighbourhood I should be familiar with, only to find it almost unrecognisable a year later due to the way it has developed and evolved. People have also changed considerably in this period. There is a sense of ceaseless appetite to consume ideas, experiences and lifestyles.

As a reaction to all these changes, I decided to collaborate with my mother several years ago, in an exercise to identify and retrace the exact sites of her memories. One of the concepts I am trying to grapple with at the moment is to interrogate the relationship between obedience and power in connections to Confucius and Mao.

How did you first become fascinated by this subject and formulate your creative process? Also, did being away from your motherland play a role in the process?

My initial fascination with China came about as a young child growing up in Hong Kong, when my mother used to tell me stories about our motherland. I remember walking around in Guangzhou wearing my favourite trousers with the letters ‘ABC’ stitched on one leg. This became a point of contempt, as people of all ages called me an ‘imperialist pig’ for daring to wear such trousers in public.

Today, I look back at that moment as both significant and pivotal. Even for a seven year old, I could sense the difference when crossing the border from the British-governed Hong Kong of the 70’s to a China still very much gripped by the ideology of Mao. That demarcation seemed to define how we would live out our lives, depending on which side of the demarcation one is situated. I learnt ones dreams and aspirations are intrinsically connected to the times we live in. And so the approach to my work involves an element of interrogation, and to discover one’s position within a space, and how that space alters in time.

The physical distance from having grown up in the West plays an important role. Whilst the distance gives me a certain vantage point to view things, my perception is nevertheless affected by the media around me, and how China is viewed by Western journalists, politicians, businesses, the art world…

Ancestral Nation, 2007 Installation view at ArtSway, UK, Courtesy of artist

'Ancestral Nation' (2007). Installation view at ArtSway, UK. Image courtesy of the artist.

As an artist closely observing life, do you feel in today’s China that the demarcation is still so binary? Today, many native Chinese move from one culture to another and they may come to discover that China, despite it being their homeland, has layers they knew existed…

Defining China in contemporary times is complex, as the nation is transforming at such a rapid pace. On the one hand, there is a strong sense of nationalism and patriotism, as demonstrated during the Beijing Olympics in 2008. As China expands, the complexity of its national borders becomes increasingly contentious, as its neighbours watch in awe but ultimately in apprehension.

On the other hand, China fully embraces today’s global ideologies, albeit controlled and mediated by central government. Unlike any other time in its history, the China of today is very much integrated with a much wider perspective, which ultimately reduces the feeling of stepping into a different zone when crossing into its borders. Today’s China is equally adept at both Chinese and Western medicine. Walking down a high street, one can find a Starbuck’s as easily as a teahouse. And so the concept of space changing in time is very much in evidence in China.

Dinu Li on his choice of medium

Your works encompass a range of medium. Which medium did you first come into contact with?

Photography was something I came to by accident in my mid-twenties. Up until that point, I had not thought of wanting to become an artist. But as someone who had been dealing with time and space throughout my life, coming into contact with photography seemed like a very powerful intervention, something I could not ignore or resist. It was the perfect medium for me to enter a different juncture in my life, and enabled me to grapple with so many ideas that had been swirling round in my head for so long.

Following that, when did you incorporate other medium and how have you come to that decision?

Once I understood what I could do with a still image, I then wanted to explore different ways of perceiving the world. From that point, I also wanted to integrate and embrace a sense of immediacy within my practice. The immediacy I am talking about can often be found in children, who carry a fearless spontaneity in the way they approach art making. Once I adopt that as a position, it alters the way I work, and so from that point, my practice became more experimental, and I was able to really explore my work by using sound, moving imagery, animation and recently performance.

In particular, how to you decide between using camera and performance?

There is a sense of mediation whether I am in front of or behind the camera, but I guess the difference is in the idea of being inside or outside of something. For instance, there are times when I simply want to be an observer, or play the role of a voyeur. But at other times it may be absolutely necessary to be inside the artwork itself, in which case, performance comes into the fore.

Yesterday is History, Tomorrow is Mystery, 2010 Installation view at QUAD, Derby, UK. Courtesy of artist

'Yesterday is History, Tomorrow is Mystery' (2010). Installation view at QUAD, Derby, UK. Image courtesy of the artist.

Dinu Li on ArtSway and similar programmes in Asia

How has ArtSway helped you in your career, both during the residency and after?

Working with ArtSway exceeded all my expectations of a publicly-funded arts organisation. One of ArtSway’s key strengths is their notion of nurturing a long-term relationship with the artists they work with. It’s an investment they place upon a relationship built on trust. My three-month residency was extremely productive, as not only did I develop new ideas, but was invited by several institutions to exhibit my work, one of which resulted in a newly commissioned catalogue. In 2009, I was represented at ArtSway’s New Forest Pavilion for the 53rd Venice Biennale.

Do you know of any similar programmes in Hong Kong, China or the Asia region?

In 2009, I was selected to participate in a three-month international residency with OCAT in Shenzhen, China. As far as I know, this is one of the few, if not the only, state-funded residency schemes in China. The programme and staff at OCAT were very supportive of my research and went out of their way to help me as far as they could. They also gave me maximum flexibility and freedom to develop my work as I wished, without pressure to arrive at an end point. In that respect, they operated in a similar manner to ArtSway.

Peter Bonnell on ArtSway and their residency programme

We noticed that ArtSway has a range of initiatives and a packed calendar. Broadly, how do you describe ArtSway as an institution?

Open since 1997, the gallery exists to present accomplished and challenging contemporary art works in a supportive and relaxed environment. ArtSway supports artists [through the Residency and Associates programmes] to take risks, and also for the general public to engage with the gallery and work on display – and these visitors come from near and far to participate in workshops, talks and events.

Can you introduce the ArtSway Residency programme’s offerings?

Once an artist is selected for a residency, they can expect our full curatorial, mentoring and advisory support. We very often host artists in residence here in Sway in England’s New Forest, and can offer the use of a free studio space. In addition, artists are given an attractive fee, and funds towards researching and producing new work, as well as travel and accommodation funds. We also provide marketing expertise for their subsequent exhibition in ArtSway’s galleries.

In 2005, 2007 and 2009 ArtSway has presented an exhibition of the work of many previous artists in residence as part of ArtSway’s New Forest Pavilion at the Venice Biennale. This particular exhibition provides a significant international stage for many of the artists we have worked with in the past – with curators, writers and galleries from around the world coming to see their work.

Do artists with a residency all naturally become ArtSway Associates afterwards?

Since the year 2000 ArtSway has supported approximately thirty artists in making new work, but not all of them have become ArtSway Associates. There are currently ten artists who are part of the programme – all of whom were invited to become an Associate.

Many of those who are selected, once approached, felt that the continuing support of ArtSway would be beneficial to their practice. However, many artists who have completed a residency or commission with ArtSway are associated with other galleries, usually ones that represent them and offer an existing high level of support.

View of ArtSway. Courtesy of ArtSway

View of ArtSway. Image courtesy of ArtSway.

How have artists benefited from the Associate programme?

The Associates programme has been a huge success to date – offering all artists involved a great deal of support and funding in regard to such things as website training and development, publications, marketing, critical input, and support and advice from ArtSway Director, Mark Segal on funding applications and proposals. Other industry professionals providing mentoring sessions include Matt’s Gallery director Robin Klassnik.

How do artists with Chinese decent benefit from ArtSway support? Is it necessary that he or she has lived or worked in the UK?

ArtSway does not target artists from any particular ethnic group or country, but we do try to ensure that our various opportunities are available to as many people as possible.

However, we have in the past targeted a specific organisation to work with – such as the Chinese Arts Centre (CAC) in Manchester. The intention was to work specifically with a Chinese artist, and we collaborated with CAC to both develop a strong partnership with a high-level organisation, and also to tap into their expertise and knowledge of the Chinese arts scene.

The artist who was selected for the residency partnership with CAC was Beijing-based photographer and filmmaker Ma Yongfeng – an artist who had not worked extensively in the UK prior to our working with him.

SXB/KN/HH

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The Problem of Asia: Para/Site art exhibition explores Asian identity in Sydney

Posted by artradar on May 5, 2010


PARA/SITE ASIAN IDENTITY ART

Ai Weiwei Beijing: The Second Ring, 2005. Video. January 14 – February 11, 2005. 1 h 6 m

The Problem of Asia, an exhibition presented 30 April – 22 May, 2010 at Chalk Horse Sydney in partnership with Hong Kong’s Para/Site Art Space, deals with an array of issues, not all of which are politically correct.

The exhibition considers how Asia is perceived and constructed, both from within and outside, and the contemporary challenges being presented to societies in general.

The exhibition is proposed as a catalytic, discursive device, activated through the artists that are part of the first installment of this improvised project. The show’s narratives address themes of growth, corruption, memory, history, language, colonialism and freedom.

This project is conceived as a work-in-progress, and is open to other additions and network plug-ins.

Australia is a unique location to launch this exhibition, as its multilayered relationship with the idea of Asia provides a provocative cultural framework.

Curated by Para/Site’s Executive Director and Curator Alvaro Rodriguez Fominaya, contributing artists include:

Ai Weiwei –      Luke Ching Chin-wai     Huang Xiaopeng     Michael Lee      Leung Chi Wo     Dinu Li      Tintin Wulia

Ai Weiwei’s videos document Beijing ring roads, focusing on the ‘process of pure observation and the nature of time…and the urban reality that defines Beijing’.

Urban reality versus urban utopia is explained through Michael Lee’s Spiral Supermart, a new project from the series Second-Hand City, where rubbles of collapsed buildings arrive at a futuristic factory in China to be analyzed, resurrected and displayed for resale.

Luke Ching Chin-wai and Huang Xiaopeng focus on language, although their research leads them through different concerns from translation software to impromptu Cantonese lessons for Japanese residents.

Dinu Li addresses the problem of Asia with a more direct strategy, through a video performance denouncing corruption, put in context with the inclusion of archival images from Chinese propaganda films.

Leung Chi Wo enacts a new performance based on his My Name is Victoria series, which encompasses references to the colonial past of Hong Kong.

Tintin Wulia’s installation is a research on the notions of nationality/nation/border through the relationship between citizenship, mobility, and political power, and between territory, mapping and cartography.

EW/KCE

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Posted in Alvaro Rodriguez Fominaya, Art spaces, Asian, Australia, Chinese, Gallery shows, Hong Kong Artists, Identity art, Installation, Nonprofit | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

V+A museum-commissioned photography show The Mother of All Journeys lands in Hong Kong – interview Dinu Li

Posted by artradar on October 7, 2009


BRITISH-CHINESE PHOTOGRAPHY

Dinu Li, an award-winning British-Chinese visual artist, showcases his exhibition The Mother of All Journeys at Amelia Johnson Contemporary (17 Sep – 31 Oct 2009) in Hong Kong. Initially commissioned by the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, the exhibition is a collection of the artist’s family snapshots which traces the journey taken by the family when they emigrated from Guangdong to Hong Kong and finally to England. Dinu Li speaks to Wendy Ma about the reasons and emotions behind this collaboration with his mother as well as his fascination with time and space.

The Mother of All Journeys by Dinu Li, 2007

The Mother of All Journeys by Dinu Li, 2007

Q: You have had an interesting life.  Which photographs capture your most memorable experiences?

This project is about memories. The one that really captures my experiences is the picture of the first house we lived in when we emigrated from Hong Kong to UK in 1973 when I was 7 years old. As I took this photograph in 2004, there was a distance of 30 years between living there and taking the photograph. We lived there for only 1 year. We don’t know who has been sitting there since. Strange that after 33 years, they have kept the same carpet, wallpaper, and cabinet in the bedroom. Now it’s rented to students.

Q: What inspired you to collaborate with your 80-year-old mother on this artwork? Is your mother an artist, too?

When I was a young boy, she was always telling me her story, and I used to create imaginary images in my head. I always wanted to see the real landscape and not rely on my imagination, so that I could understand where the memories come from and make a comparison between fantasy and reality.

No, my mother’s not an artist. Her job was to identify the place. I also have 6 brothers and sisters in the fields of engineering and catering.

The Mother of All Journeys by Dinu Li, 2007

The Mother of All Journeys by Dinu Li, 2007

Q: Was there a gap between the reality and your imagination?

She had a memory about hiding behind a tree during Japanese invasion of China. I imagined a tree in a dense forest, where she would hide. But it was just a tree on the hill, which meant that she was desperate to find anywhere to hide. In that sense it was very powerful.

The Mother of All Journeys by Dinu Li, 2007

The Mother of All Journeys by Dinu Li, 2007

Q: What are your images trying to narrate other than the past?

Duality. When you step into a place, there is a duality between what is personal and universal. The photograph is not just about our own experiences, but others’ as well. In the process of unearthing our personal history, there are other histories in that very space. You’re sitting here on the sofa now, so you have a history here. If I come back here tomorrow to take a photograph, I have to understand that someone else sat there and has his own history. The project is multi-layered.

Past is all around us, even in the modern city of Hong Kong. Past is only one second ago, not far away. I’m deeply interested in the concept of time and space, and photography is the perfect medium that deals with this. With photography, you play with time by speeding it up, slowing it down, or freezing it still. You’re empowered with the control to manipulate time.

Roland Bathes, a philosopher, called this a subconscious fear of death. Not that we think about it all the time, but the notion that there’s limited time prompt those to use films, photographs, and videos in the endeavor to understand what time and space are.

The Mother of All Journeys by Dinu Li, 2007

The Mother of All Journeys by Dinu Li, 2007

Q: What feelings or revelations surfaced while exploring the sites of your mother’s past?

Sometimes you go somewhere, you rediscover something you’ve not been thinking about for a long time, and all the memories reappear. When you visit a place, certain aspects trigger your memory. It can be the shape of light, the way it falls, the circular pattern it makes. Now in front of us there’s a shadow cast on the wall, if you revisit that place in 20 years, the pattern will reappear as long as the light is still standing there.

Q: How is the joint creation of art different from solo efforts in your other creations?

A lot of my work has some sort of links – people’s identities, their history and memories. I look at other people’s archive and their personal histories. Even though it’s personal, it’s also public. There’s a different type of duality between personal and public. Their existences are not mutually exclusive. Sometimes my mother’s history is not unique, but shared. For instance, many people have been in love or have been sick.

Dinu Li standing next to his artwork

Dinu Li standing next to his artwork

Q: In what ways has Mother of All Journeys affected other projects of yours?

Family Village and all my new projects – come from Mother of All Journeys. In 2005, a British architect had sent a Christmas card to his Sichuan friend, also an architect, who decided to build the town illustrated on the card in Chengdu. That inspired me and led me to question the authenticity of that place.  In terms of features, the Chengdu town has similar tile, roofs, and chimney shape.  The differences are the local materials and the fact the population in China is bigger, the houses are also taller and bigger.

Moreover, the new town in Chendu brings the authenticity of culture into question. While I was there working, the security guard tried to stop me, “How do I know you’re not a British architect who came to copy our style” Apparently, he was oblivious to the origin of the building. Often we claim that something belongs to us, such as fish and chips just because they’ve been in the UK for such a long period. In fact, chips are French and fish are Dutch.  So it’s interesting to find out where things come from.

For the Family Village project, I scanned a particular 1950’s cartoon book and retold a narrative about a hero boy who intercepted the Japanese soldiers. My adaptation of the story is about a boy on a journey while collecting bamboo. Every time he returns home he finds his home changing. I turned a static original cartoon into a five-minute animation video.

Q: What cultural shocks did you have to overcome as you emigrated from Hong Kong to Manchester? What historical events took place at that time that affected you?

The idea of space – growing up in Hong Kong, we lived in small space. England offered more space. There was more space among people in the metro. The climate – the fog and snow in England.  The sound – the silence in England, as opposed to the noises in Hong Kong.

Since we moved in1973, compared to my parents, I was too young to be affected by historical events. In the 1960’s, people feared that the Cultural Revolution might invade Hong Kong, so those who left China for Hong Kong continued their journey to the West.  

Q: How do you reconcile the cultural and generational differences?

It’s strange. Since my cousins didn’t leave China, there exists a massive cultural difference between them and me.  Having lived in the West, I perceived things from a more objective angle. But for them in that situation, they were so close that they couldn’t see or to understand the 50’s and 60’s.  You had to be further away. That’s why I became an artist.

Q: I read that your father and your mother once made underwear for a factory in Hong Kong. Tell us more about it.

In the 50’s, Hong Kong was like Shenzhen (a manufacturing region in the south of mainland China) now. The westerners established factories in Hong Kong, which at the time was just some island with fisherman.  The exodus of Chinese people to Hong Kong meant they had to start a new life from scratch. Like others, my parents just wanted to get a job in the factories. Now history is repeating itself.

Q: What artwork are you showing at the 53rd Venice Biennale?

Family Village. When you step inside the gallery, you see screens suspended in the middle of the room like a moon, inside which there is a story of a boy watching his home changing all the time as he is picking bamboos.  Inside the video, children are chanting the Chinese translation of a western song from the 1970’s film Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.

Q: During the 4 years of making Mother of All Journey, has anything changed?

Yes.  You start off taking many photographs, and then you keep editing it to make it smaller until you get the core. The most important bit is the real meat of the project. Similar to making a soup, you have to patient and allow time to condense it to the best bit. I can’t just take a photograph and use it immediately. The period of four years allowed me to develop a distance from my photographs and therefore choose wisely. In the last year, I finally reduced the bunch from 300 to 35-40 based on the content.

Q: What was behind your inspiration?

People take things for granted so much that they feel they don’t need to reflect. My mother’s very old, so I must reflect. Mother of All Journeys has inspired others to start similar projects.  It’s a personal project that touches a large audience.

Q: What’s your current project?

I’m doing an artist residency in Shenzhen. I like that it’s on the border of China and Hong Kong. Sometimes my projects are accidental, and other times, to be inspired, I need to be physically in that particular place.

-Contributed by Wendy Ma

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Posted in Ancestors, Asian, Chinese, Family, Hong Kong, Migration, Photography, Slow art, Slow/fast art, Space, Time | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »