China - Between Past and Future

China - Between Past and Future

A project on contemporary art in China

24 March 06 - 14 May 06

Ever since the Second World War, European theory has been shaped by reflections on the various forms of cultural memory. In China, too, this topic has sparked intense debate and is of growing significance for artistic and literary production. As in Europe, the question of national identity always appears to be accompanied by the question of ‘China - Between Past and Future’. Examining this topic is essential to any understanding of this very important country, especially when we consider the increasing influence of China on other world cultures. Chinese history is characterised by two opposing currents: a readiness to supply new interpretations of old practices and beliefs, but also by a record of erasing cultural traditions. The Communist Revolution and, in particular, the Cultural Revolution represent violent interventions in the country’s incomparably rich cultural past, leading to the destruction of countless works of art and ‘lieux de mémoire’. But it should also be noted that changes spawned by the market economy over the past few years have also had similar effects. Interestingly, it is precisely the irretrievable loss of historical monuments and cultural landscapes—and also of non-material cultural products—that has made the public, whether in China or in Europe, more aware of the diversity and originality of these traditions. Even the very first generation of artists after the Cultural Revolution reacted in this way, asking questions about their cultural traditions and the consequences of its obliteration—an impulse that has today grown into a veritable flood of reflections, debates and artistic statements. In the programme ‘China - Between Past and Future’, questions specific to China will be discussed and simultaneously expanded to take an international perspective into account. The project addresses the need for artistic self-definition with which many artists in China today attempt to resist the continuing influence of the Communist party. However, doing so is difficult without greater familiarity with one’s cultural roots. For, in addition to an aesthetic quality, the act of remembering in China always has a political dimension; remembering the past is always a political project that decisively shapes all aspects of public life. In this context, many artists today are protesting against growing nationalistic tendencies and refusing to accept state-propagated versions of cultural history as their own. Made possible through the cooperation of national and international partners, the project will examine the many complex questions surrounding the notion of cultural memory using a wide variety of artistic forms—including opera, music, literature, art and film. The large number of projects focusing on opera and music reflect the important role played by these art forms with regard to cultural memory in China. In no other artistic spheres has the uniquely rich cultural knowledge of China been kept alive as in these—from generation to generation, and through all political systems up to the present—despite political restrictions and the increasing impact of globalisation. The chief goal of the programme’s curators is to resolve this apparent contradiction.

http://www.hkw.de/en/ressourcen/archiv2006/cultural_memory/_cultural_memory/projekt-detail_3.php

participating artists: