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September 10, 2016

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Multi-discipline pieces fill cross-cultural show

Q: The works of the Chinese finalists are displayed in conjunction with those of “89plus” participants in the same age group. What are the commonalities and differences between the Chinese and foreign artists?

89plus: There is definitely a shared interest in looking at the human factor in technology. For example, Huang Lewei uses virtual reality technology in his work about disappearing traditional Chinese architecture, and Valia Fetisov uses artificial intelligence in his work to enhance social engagement.

Leam: There are many commonalities. They work across boundaries and don’t like defining themselves in one discipline. Also, they are very much invested in new media. That is the main visual language for the new generation of creators, whether Chinese or international.

They are not so caught up with mainstream methods. Their works often reflect more personal stories, and they try to communicate and share their own experiences and personal stories with audiences.

The differences are there as well. For one, many Chinese participants’ feedback for the open call theme, “Envision 2116,” was that it was too broad, and they almost didn’t know what to do, because they are more used to the competitions that pose specific requirements.

Q: What were the criteria of the open call and how did the jury agree on the 12 finalists?

89plus: We considered each work in context with the other works in the show, as well as in the context of the Shanghai Project’s theme ... which is all about the future, technology, ecology, extinction and sustainability. It was important to us to present a diverse selection of practices, while maintaining a cohesive exhibition narrative.

Leam: We had a very international jury, and the quality we were looking for was how much of the understanding they have regarding the theme “Envision 2116.” We wanted them to run wild with their imaginations, so there were almost no restrictions on their proposals, no restricted budgets, forms or size. It was clear we don’t want to present an exhibition just full of proposals. The proposals needed to be realized.

Q: Many of these works are not, in the traditional sense, artworks on display. And this historic building in the ancient water town of Zhujiajiao is also not a typical exhibition space. Did that pose a challenge for the curators?

Leam: It creates challenges and excitement. The context of the ancient water town helps to expand the horizon by reading beyond the field of arts, and allows a shift away from the conventional futuristic aesthetics and instead creates a more complex understanding of the future in relation to the present and the past.

One of the most valuable experiences comes from working with works that are not used to being exhibited, like those of writers. The process requires a lot of dialogue and discussions with the participants.

We wanted them to be involved as much as possible, so many of them paid site visits to this unique space, and we tried to curate the works in conjunction with other works in the same room, whether it was from a Chinese or an international participant.

Q: Many works in the exhibition seem to be cross-disciplinary and difficult to categorize in terms of traditional art genre. Was that intensional?

89plus: Multi-disciplinarity is at the heart of 89plus research. We find that many artists from this generation are working across multiple fields and it is a key part of our research that we embrace this multi-disciplinary approach. As such we invited innovators from all fields — including art, architecture, design, poetry, literature, film, dance, science and technology — to submit proposals for the exhibition.


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