Exhibition at Anni Art

米饭 mǐfàn

Anni art and ASAP invite you to an exceptional exhibition of Austrian Artists and their works produced in China.

Austria is in China and China is in Austria

Fifteen Austrian artists show their works in China for the first time. This exhibition is exceptional because all works have been created by the artists during their stay in China. These works are personal explorations drafted in an individual artistic language which negotiates between the grammars of the East and the West. The exhibition offers an inside view of 15 Austrian artists: Lukas Birk, Karel Dudesek, Sylvia Eckermann, Kerstin von Gabein, Nikolaus Gansterer, G.R.A.M., Michael Hoepfner, Ulrike Johannsen, Ronald Kodritsch, Jasmin Ladenhaufen, Ralo Mayer, Matthias Meinharter, Gerald Nestler, Rainer Prohaska and Kamen Stoyanov, how their perception is inspired and translated into artistic methods, to project a different view on place, form and content. Fifteen Austrian artists lived in China, became accommodated to habits and rituals.
Fifteen artists from the other side of the world traveled east and sat down at table with the locals and tasted their food, which is so different from any Chinese restaurant food in Austria. Fifteen artists made friends and knitted relations which were supposed to last as long as possible. The artists are the first ones who live and work in the global space. Now China is in Austria and Austria is in China. We are one world, one nation, with different languages and rituals but similar desires. Fifteen Austrian artists with their diverse talents came to China to make use of their imagination and to interact.

They interacted with traditional painters, visited and interviewed local artists, composed songs with musicians, reflected the media society, constructed their own vehicles to explore one of the biggest cities in the world, put up banners to manifest their irritation, worked with Chinese fashion designers and tailors to create new fashion, painted pictures, painted their faces, photographed the fast changing unknown, did research while walking trough cities and across China with their own individual methods, paid massive cab bills, visited wild markets and savoured the unknown smell of the oriental world and returned to Austria with the wish to come back to be able to continue their work in China. What they shared was one common thought: That there had not been enough time available – time actually needed to accomplish their work.

We cordially invite you to the opening afternoon Saturday the 7th of November 4-7pm.
The exhibition is open daily from 11am – 6pm, till 26. November 2009

Sharing Difference by Zhang Li

Rice is the staple food of Chinese people. “Xiang Dang,” Chapter 10 of The Analects, says: "Excess meat does not a winning meal make." This Confucian adage is meant to warn against consuming excess meat and no grains. While these words should be understood from a health perspective, they also allude to the Confucian ethical code and traditional culture of reverence; traditional agricultural society is founded on grain production and the ideal Confucian social establishment is rooted in the adherence and safeguard of stable ethics and social relations. One of the most obvious differences Westerners notice when first arriving in China is the staple food. Aside from physical characteristics, language, diet and various other cultural differences, staple food involves the most direct bodily experience. Given the course of China's rapid modernization, few elements, whether attire, diet or lifestyle, remain distinct from the West besides "food." Contemporary China is transitioning from an agricultural society to an industrial and post-industrial society. Eating habits, like written Chinese and its spoken dialects, have nonetheless maintained its traditional form.

Rice occupies a status more important than Western bread. It is one example of the difference between China and the West that can be experienced in daily life. Many works in this exhibition, which features 15 Austrian artists, derive directly from daily life experiences in China. For example, in Works On Paper, Ronald Kodritsch paints the pinyin for rice ("mifan") on his very individualist painting, even making note of the tonal marks. Similarly, in another work, he paints the Chinese characters for beef noodles (“牛肉面”). In Chinese Walk, two members of the G.R.A.M. group wander Chinese cities wearing Chinese opera style make-up and Western clothing. The resulting series of photographs presents an interesting juxtaposition of the artists’ Western facial features masked behind Chinese make-up and camouflaged amidst Chinese spaces. The work seeks to reveal potential opportunities for cultural exchange behind and between cultures. In Unsettled Conditions, Michael Hoepfner’s journey through Tibet involves a deep and complex concept and process but the result is a seemingly straightforward set of travel photos depicting locals and tourist sites.

Ulrike Johannsen's Response to Qiu Zhijie and Jia Zhangke makes use of the myriad selection of Chinese fashion magazines. In Enter Beijing, Rainer Prohaska remodels and rides a three-wheel pedicab through the streets of Beijing. His interactions with locals during these rides are based on his unique view and familiarization with the real local daily life. There are also the randomly “discovered” Chinese propaganda banners by Ralo Mayer in I have no idea about this place but I am going to promote it, Karel Dudesek’s “readymade” objects in less then more, the discarded playing cards collected by Kerstin von Gabain in Struggling for Points, the travel photographs shot with expired Polaroid film by Lukas Birk in A Moment's Departure and more. These are all works created from the artists’ firsthand observations and experiences of everyday people and events in the same environment, China.

The artists also contrast, juxtapose, fuse and mix different cultural elements. The G.R.A.M. group's use of Chinese opera make-up is a direct contrast to Western facial features and contemporary attire. Johannsen's work juxtaposes Chinese song lyrics with Western advertisements found in fashion magazines. In Chinese Whispers, the “chain” painting project initiated by Matthias Meinharter and Nikolaus Gansterer originates with a Frida Kahlo self-portrait and gradually fuses into a series of commercially reproduced copies. Gerald Nestler and Sylvia Eckermann conduct interviews based on Chinese and Western views on art, nature and the environment in Breathe My Air. While the interviewees never meet, their responses are edited into one conversation that spans history, time and ideas of both cultures in what the artists refer to as a “paradox conversation.” Prohaska's pedicab mixes different socioeconomic attitudes on the issue of transportation. In Copy Alltag, Jasmin Ladenhaufen contrasts and mixes the effect of turning a painting into real life fashion and back into a painting.

European artists are sensitive to the concepts of time and space. The various meanings that derive from the start point, itinerary and end point often manifest in their works. Prohaska produced accurate maps of his pedicab journeys across Beijing. Hoepfner documented the evolution of his thoughts and emotions throughout the course of his Tibetan journey. Upon arriving in China, the G.R.A.M. group used dramatic make-up and physical displacement to emphasize both time and place. Dafen, a village in Shenzhen renowned for mass produced oil paintings, is the location of Chinese Whispers. Physical displacement is a significant element in Dudesek's work. An object that is removed, replaced or slightly altered takes on a new meaning.

Artists in China today, whether hailing from the West or the East, are producing against an increasingly global backdrop. The disappearance of tradition and rapid transformation in the environment, lifestyle and value systems have reached an alarming degree. The significance of temporal and spatial displacement in Birk's A Moment’s Departure is very apparent in this context. His photos distort the sense of time to explore and develop a reality that is hidden by the rapid changes currently underway. In Artzone-Timezone, Kamen Stojanov's rap song takes a humorous approach to discovering the localism behind a backdrop of global economic trends. In the introduction of Hoepfner’s work, he writes about the unique experience of walking into a historic space and confronting the predicament of a vanishing tradition along with the doubts raised towards development and progress. Johannsen's standpoint toward magazine advertisements is clearly a critique of the clash between mainstream fashion and individual style. Despite the fact that Kodritsch's painting style is common among Chinese artists – something that has much to do with Western art education and exposure – his work possesses an individual flair dissimilar to most Chinese art that is often, invariably, burdened by social and historical changes. In Chinese Whispers, Meinharter and Gansterer use a painting factory to critique the global manufacturing chain and its various systems and manifestations such as the value of labor, manual labor and cultural differences. Nestler and Eckermann apply an individual style to edit interviews conducted in a global format and context. The works of Hoepfner, Mayer and Prohaska challenge the notion of globalization by highlighting elements of labor and culture, particularly in outlying regions, that remain confined to the local.

Artists perpetually explore the meaning of art and new art forms. Artists who work extensively in physical formats are always sensitive to experiences that are different from their own cultural backgrounds. This form of confrontation and experience goes along with artists' process of the continuation, fulfillment, development and even transformation of artistic thinking. Meinharter and Gansterer use the concept of an error as a tool to explore and expose the ways in which various power structures use inherent and cultural traditions to condense and expose a hidden reality. As Prohaska's pedicab project developed, it became a vehicle for exchange and both a challenge to and an interpretation of reality. Given a context in which semantics fails, Mayer's banners find expression in sameness. Dudesek finds and alters or displaces “readymade” objects as opposed to making or purchasing objects.

The works in this exhibition represent an array of experimentation and contemporary meaning. They reflect the artists' multifaceted experiences and revelations during their stay in China – through direct bodily experience, food, spoken and written language, popular culture, place, daily life, cultural symbols, the exchange of thoughts and feelings, an exploration of an ideology and other themes. Chinese viewers can see the deepened sense of exchange and interaction in the works, as well as the more realistic and inherent meaning and influences they produce. This is very different compared to when Western artists arrived in China when the country first opened up. Exchange is reciprocal. I hope that the Europe-bound Chinese artists can also express their experiences as colorfully and meaningfully to contribute to progress in human culture and development.