Half-Life of a Dream

Last night I went to see Half-Life of a Dream an exibhit of contemporary Chinese artists. What the artists all have in common is that they were trained to make art as Communist state propaganda and they all have supurb technical skills.

I haven't put up images of any of the art work in because the images from the show that I found on line are not big enough or photographed well enough to do justice to the work.

Every piece of work in the show is good enough to provoke a conversation. In that sense the work is conceptual, but much of the work is also worth looking at for its technical virtuosity or its experimental prowess.

If you can handle darkness and ambiguity, you'll really like this show. Speaking of ambiguity, there is an artist, whose name I can't remember. I just tried for twenty minutes to figure out which Neolithic Vaseartist it was and came up sort. Anyway he only had one piece in the show and it was clearly designed to get people's goat. It is a technically simple piece consisting of about ten 3000 to 5000 year old neolithic ceramic vases covered in brightly colored industrial paint. From an archaeological point of view, this is vandalism. Thinking about this piece as a martial artist or a Daoist, it poses many interesting questions, which my readers might like to consider (in no particular order).

  1. If we have simular ceramic vases which are 6000 to 8000 years old, does it really matter what happens with these 3000-5000 year old ones?

  2. Isn't industrial paint more useful and practical than dark colored clay?

  3. Isn't a replica of an ancient artifact more valuable than the original? At least you can pick it up, feel it, or put flowers in it?

  4. If you could be put in a cryogenic sleep for 3000 years, wouldn't you be embarrassed to find your scratched up discolored Tupperware in a museum?

  5. When the government controls archaeological research and publication, instead of working archaeologists, are the results any more ethical than if artists were in control?

  6. The ancients had a nice sense of form but had poor knowledge of industrial materials and mass production.

  7. Is the surface more important than the story behind the object, person, or event?

  8. If the past can be improved, should it be?

  9. Is reverence for old stuff a form of vanity?

  10. What makes something valuable? Its story, history, rareness, function, location, age, or the meaning/experience we derive from it?

Check out the show, and if you are no where near San Francisco check this list to see if anything from Contemporary China is headed your way.