The OTHER X / change

Beijing - Cologne, 1999 - 2000

Opening on 8th October, 1999 at 1900hr Mr.Johannes Bunk, Dept. for Intercultural Artprojects of Artcouncil Cologne will speak at the Opening with a performance from Echo Ho.

Bettina Buck, Echo Ho, Roland Kerstein, Jay Koh, Li Bing, Li Yongbin, Stefan Römer, Xu Tan and Zhou Yibin

till 23.Okt. 1999 in Gallery ON, Jülicher Str. 27, 50674 Köln

Feng Qianyu, Xu Xiaoyu und Zheng Guogu

till 30.Okt. 1999 in Gallery + Edition Objektiv, Dasselstr. 22, 50674 Köln

Sponsered by the Chief Mayor of the City of Cologne, Artcouncil of Cologne and on invitation from Goethe Institut - Beijing.

Coordination and Curator: Jay Koh, arting + IFIMA

English / German

The OTHER X / change is a project aiming to explore cultural diversity through critical contemporary interactive art practices. Bettina Buck, Roland Kerstein and Jay Koh were in Beijing in May/June 1999 and set up a temporary project space that functioned as a forum to facilitate dialogue and exchange with local artists.

Discussions occurring as a part of The OTHER X / change will address possibilities for innovation and criticality in future cultural projects and programmes. Also at issue are the degree to which an individual subject is able to 'step outside' their cultural perspective, the applications that a term such as 'globalism' may have for art, and the notion that a set of universal values are applicable in the critical reception of art.

While the individual nature of an artwork is often used to determine its market value, the meanings and interpretations attributed to a work are inevitably contingent on the situation in which it appears. This suggests the possibility that works may offer differing readings in different contexts.

Wary of enactments of culture imperialism, the three German artists stayed in Beijing for a period of four weeks to engage themselves pro-actively in local dialogues. For Bettina Buck and Roland Kerstein - who were in Beijing for the first time - this short period served as an introduction to Chinese culture. One of the main criteria of their visit was to create artworks on site rather than 'import' any 'finished' works or concepts from abroad. The artists were fortunate to experience both the privileges and the constraints accorded to the presentation of artworks in China.

The privileged status that is normally reserved for invited foreign artists was experienced with little censorship or the need to obtain permission from the authorities in advance, and was carried out through the invitation from the Goethe Institut-Beijing. Bettina Buck and Roland Kerstein collaborated on an interactive performance incorporating soya sauce and leading to the founding of the "Society of Foreign Affairs", while Jay Koh did a lecture on "Critical Art Practice" as the conceptual background of the The OTHER X / change project.

The restricted presentation took place at the "Artist Store House", a former chinese theatre, the only artist-run, non commercial art project space operating in Beijing. It was for "invited" guests only, rather than being a public event without permission from the district office. Bettina Buck collaborated with Roland Kerstein in a multimedia performance with surgical manipulation as well as doing her "Shooting Gallery". Jay Koh used the "control prop" room for stage management in the formal chinese theatre to create his "Office for Extraordinary Activities", a room installation with "doctored" copyprints. Videos from Wang Mai, Zhou Yibin, Li Yongbin, Xu Ruotao, photographic work from Xu Xiaoyu and a performance from Sheng Qi were presented during the evening. The evening ended with a discussion between Zhu Qi, Jiao Yingqi, Wang Xiaojian and the rest of the audience. During the weeks leading up to these events, Jay Koh had undertaken in-depth dialogues with Li Xianting, Tang Di, Wang Jianwei, Lu Yuen and the rest of the participating artists.

The discussions focused on the 'desire' of the mainstream western art scene to exhibit and promote "Chinese kitsch" art.

Why does the west load this art with such political content?And why does it choose to use it to represent the liberalisation of Chinese culture?

Is this interpretation of Chinese art according to western readings an act of cultural imperialism?

Are these ongoing marginalisations, distortions and prejudices not evidence of a position originating in First World cultural supremacy?

Is there a possibility of western artists or artists from industrialised nations being appropriated and dispatched as the cultural vanguard of a capitalism that dreams of China as its largest prospective market?

The OTHER X / change offers critical perspectives on both western desire for the 'exotic', and on the socio-economic conditions required for such a cultural exchange to occur in the first place.

Are Chinese artists ostensibly acting mostly with 'entrepreneurial' intentions, in fact prostituting themselves and letting others write the Art History of China?

Where does Chinese art stand today after twice being implicated in attempts to use the medium of western art to create new beginnings?

In a reciprocal exchange in Year 2000, Jiao Yingqi and Li Yongbin will travel to Cologne to create new works.

Performance from Echo Ho, who recently moved to Cologne, is to be presented with the work of Li Bing( Tibet <-> Beijing ), Li Yongbin( Visitor ) and Echo Ho( Yellow Flag ) in Gallery ON. Presentation of the " Society of Foreign Affairs " done in Beijing by Bettina Buck and Roland Kerstein and Jay Koh will do a premier viewing of his videos " a stroll with a friend ", a collaboration with Zhou Yibin done on the Great Wall of China and the " small movement in World Art ", done in Guangzhou including the interactive CD-Rom "Made in China" from Xu Tan as well as an installation by Stefan Roemer in his initial part of his work " Colonial Merchandise and Trade, Part I "uses photographic essay to form a concise draft for a script investigating the perception of Chinese culture in Cologne on the example of a chinese family. Roemer's installation visualises an imaginary character out of found objects from Chinese culture merge before the analytic consideration and involving biographical approaches. For the other part, he will visit Beijing to research elements of western culture in the Chinese society.

The work of Xu Xiaoyu, Feng Qianyu and Zheng Guogu will be shown concurrently in Galerie + Edition OBJETIV. These chinese artists from both galleries represent a small section of the dynamic Chinese contemporary art scene that these German artists were in dialogue with during their stay in Beijing, and later with Jay Koh in Guangzhou, the curator of the project.