The Other Shore of Desire
A performance by Chinese artist Han Bing, and a talk by Maranatha Ivanova
Monday, November 27, 2006
5:00 PM - 7:00 PM
314 Royce Hall
A multimedia presentation and demonstration by the contemporary artist Han Bing
a talk by Maranatha Ivanova (who describes her work as a "medly of political philosophy, philosophy of language, cultural and linguistic anthropology, comparative politics and practice theoryon “Modernization and Marginalization in Han Bing's Art”) on "“Modernization and Marginalization in Han Bing's Art"
Han Bing (b. 1974) grew up in an impoverished village in China. After studying oil painting in college, he studied at the Chinese Central Academy of Art. Moving to Beijing, he witnessed the stark contrast between the urbanized "Chinese dream" propelling the nation's struggle to become "modern," and the harsh realities of those left behind, or trodden underfoot, in this pell-mell rush. As a clarion voice from the "new contemporary art of the everyday" in the "globalized, post-colonial context," Han Bing expresses the struggles and desires in the "theater of Chinese modernization." His works use photography, video and multimedia performance installation to invert quotidian practice, asking us to rethink the order of things and complete our human condition. His art manifests a kind of amor mund -- love of the world -- investing ordinary objects from everyday life with a subtle sense of the sacred.
Demolition, construction and the rapid transformation of Chinese society are strong themes in Han Bing's work. New Culture Movement captures a poignant and paradoxical shift as Mao's Little Red Books are replaced by the red bricks as villages across the country try to keep up with the pace of change in the "New China." Although repudiated by the upwardly mobile in urban China as "backward," the lowly brick is still the best most rural families can expect, even as these brick masonry is razed across the cities to make way for concrete and steel structures -- the latest definition of "modern." The (single-exposure) conceptual photography series, Urban Amber, invokes the specter of China's newly built, glamorous high-rises -- those icons of middle-class China's dreams of home and a better life. Juxtaposed to the nearby, ramshackle, temporary dwellings of the urban poor, these fantasy high-rises appear resplendent and dream-like until you realize that their inverted images are reflected in Beijing's ubiquitous, pollution-choked and garbage-infested "stinky rivers." Like amber, these rivers capture the sediment of the times, showing us through a mirror darkly, the underbelly of China's fantasy of modernity. Love is another major motif in Han Bing's art. In the Mating Season performance art, photography and video art series, he eroticizes ordinary, everyday objects—especially tools of manual labor, construction, and sources of basic sustenance—animating them with passion, reminding us that meaning is humanly created and that a reverence for the world that we have made is the first step in taking responsibility for it. He continues this exploration in the Love in the Age of Big Construction, a series of multimedia performance installations, in which he uses a dialectic of opposites, such the warmth of his sensual body, to neutralize the cold, impersonal violence of the machine of China's modernization. In Everyday Precious, he pays tribute to the unglamorous objects that sustain ordinary people's lives.
Han Bing's Walking the Cabbage performance art "happenings" have become urban legend in China and beyond. In streets across China—from his home village in rural Jiangsu to Tiananmen Square, from the Yunnanese minority village in China's Southwest, to the Westernized Bund in Shanghai—Han Bing walks his cabbage (the quintessential Chinese comfort food of common folk) on a leash, inciting the emergence of the "Cabbage-Walking Tribe" of alternative youth who question the "normal" order of things and remind us how the practices of everyday life come to constitute that order.
Han Bing's appearance at UCLA is in conjuction with "Other Modernities," a solo exhibition of photography, video, and multimedia performance installation by boundary-blurring, multidisciplinary Chinese contemporary artist Han Bing, curated by Maya Kóvskaya, at the Bamboo Lane Gallery, in Chinatown, from December 2, 2006 to February 3, 2007.
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