Probing the PRC’s online pulse
Two awesome art exhibitions feature sculpture, photography, video, augmented and virtual reality inspired by China’s digital sphere.
As China’s power lusters and cyber-tyrants tighten their grip, two excellent art exhibitions explore how the Middle Kingdom’s digital domain is colliding with the real one. Hong Kong’s ambitious K11, an art platform that showcases and incubates oodles of avant-garde swashbucklers, is working with MoMA PS1 on a project called .com/.cn (live today). Investigating the PRC’s opaque and obscurantist digital commons, rigorously regulated by the ‘Great Firewall’ (GFW), it questions the nature and scope of the internet, highlighting the differences between the Chinese web and the West, shaped by ample government intervention, filtering, surveillance and the CCP’s draconian censorship rules.
Also on in Shanghai, K11 and the New Museum have teamed up to present “After Us” — a kind of “post-human” state that will arise out of our online personas. Artist Chen Zhou’s video installation shows us day-to-day life via China’s manic micro-bloggers and social media enthusiasts (think WeChat and Weibo dialogues, video gaming and all kinds of online memes, avatars, emojis and archetypes), exhibiting the blurred lines between the virtual and real. This bang-up show explores how Chinese and international artists use hacks, games, surrogates and simulacra to expand the notion of human autonomy and ontology. Lu Yang, for instance, depicts a character called “Uterus Man” who has the extraordinary ability to use his womb as a weapon, breaking free from biology and censorship, and augmenting the iconography of superpowers. Cécile B. Evans’ video on the singularity and post-human cybernetics, where consciousness, software, and hardware have merged, is meddling and mind-bending. Other ace artists include Takeshi Murata, Katja Novitskova, Jon Rafman, Rachel Rossin, Stewart Uoo, Yu Honglei, etc.
The Chinese government has long kept tight reins on both traditional and new media to avoid potential subversion of its authority. Its tactics often entail strict media controls using monitoring systems and firewalls, shuttering publications or websites, and jailing dissident journalists, bloggers, and activists. Google’s battle with the Chinese government over internet censorship and the Norwegian Nobel Committee‘s awarding of the 2010 Peace Prize to jailed Chinese activist Liu Xiaobo have also increased international attention to censorship and suppression. At the same time, China’s burgeoning economy relies on the web for growth and ideas, and the growing need for internet freedom is testing the regime’s obsessive control.
Last year, Freedom House ranked China last for the second consecutive year out of sixty-five countries that represent 88 percent of the world’s internet users. The France-based watchdog group Reporters Without Borders ranked China 176 out of 180 countries in its 2016 worldwide index of press freedom. It is well known that Chinese media outlets always employ their own monitors to ensure political acceptability of their content. Censorship guidelines are circulated weekly from the Communist Party’s propaganda department and the government’s Bureau of Internet Affairs to prominent editors, artists and media providers. Anyway, check out this amazing multimedia art inspired by internet culture in China.
300 Huaihai Road Central, near South Huangpi Road, Huangpu District, Shanghai, China | New Museum
235 Bowery New York, NY 10002
VIVISXN – Art + Multimedia + Politics