Official Topic: Memory

Sandro Orlandi (Curator)

There’s an old Chinese saying: “Good memories still don’t beat the things you write down.” It means that no matter how good your memories are, it is still hard to avoid mistakes since we are human so it is always better to write things down. This old saying emphasized the things that use words as a carrier to support memories.


Oscar Wilde once said: “Memory is the diary that everybody carries around.”This tells us a fact: memories are us, they are our history, our abundant experience and knowledge – everything we do. It’s a product of our thoughts and memories. 


Therefore, memories is an important element, it is what every artist has, and what every one of them used to create artworks. It could also be a ruthless judge, judging the quality and the ability of the art creation through time. Because of this, art works will stop at the memories of “Facts speak louder than words.”


Memories, from modern meanings, contain enormous ability of information storage, which help to provide modern electronic technology. Because of the power, we can put text, voice and pictures into our collective memories. This technology’s “memories” helps to store thinking and art works. It could also be a transportation medium – for example digital works (photography, video and audio).


Every artist must know the three roles of memories because they do not only tell us what they are, but also use their own ways to let us see. This is why art works allow us to see the bygone history of culture. 

The Rhetoric of Memories

Mianbu  (Curator)

1.In our culture, there is no such a landscape where all gods supply its time. While in Feng Zhengjie’s “China Series No88”, the very temping hands created a sense of resurrection that fills with a rose-garden-like aura of nihilism. The “Rent Collecting Yard” of Li Zhanyang renders a radical redicule towards the revolution of epic of art history in a period being full of sense of colonism. In “Manuscript” by Cang Xin, the memorial network of the meditative creatures connected to the past and the present seems uncovering the constellation structure of the memory of China-Italy Biennale. Shen Jingdong’s “Land Mine” is like a perfect universe of memories, unexpectedly producing all revelled forms of the future.


2, In “A Painting” by Huanghethe past was so vague that seems like being at a moment in the future,revealling his extraodinary techniques of lyric for purity; Qiu Zhijie himself is both indifferent and passionate, seeming like a musuem of spirits, but this time he poetically leads the famers’ works to the the whisper of stars; Zhaohui’s “Infinite Light” is like breeze blowing us at night when the day ends, comforting our souls; Though It is the frustrated emotions that inevitably cause the failures, those also proves that we can bring this world into the tracks of us——after all, absense has created an unbelievable joy and a power to see this distinctiveness.


3. "Bach the Well-Tempered Clavier' by Chen Danyang is more like a hectic constellation, involving a form that vitally matters the life and death, a form of analysing and a miracle of loneliness; Curator Cheng Guoqin clearly guided every item of the memory from "Yu Gong Moves the mountain" to the structure of this Biennale; The shadow of coulds is extremely exquisite and beautiful as the one in Jiang Yunge’s “Daydream”, taking us away from the hoax of genealogy; The crowd walking down from the heaven in Huangmin’s work seems like a fable from south when all living things on earth firstly came here, leaving an imcomprehensible touch to people.


 4. The Balcony Collective, a group of youths who need to borrow ice tubes and furs from time (Chen Zi and Wu Wei), borrow scenes from history (Yu Ying), borrow the altitude of illusion and the sense of touch of patience (Fu Xiaotong), then peacefully penetrating into the center of memory. One may invariably indulge in the illusion of romantic fantacies of Liu Zhengyong’s “Lovers” over and over again, for those are the scratch of love and a self-floating in the galaxy of time which will never come back; Besides, the posters by designer Xiaoming involve a serious and classic touch that belong to the youths; We therefore would be sitting at Tang Nannan’s seaside studio, staring blankly by the window and floating over the rivers of our lives that swiftly passed by.


5. Wei Ligang’s work has a recurrent and standing-out theme about “memories”, by which he confidently calls our attention to the easten beauty of memory, though the papers seem to have been overwhelmed by the predominate lines blasting like fireworks; The “party” by Lan Zhenghui depicts a magnificent scene of black and gold, stiring up those sexy memories; Top artist Lv Peng, a representative of China’s new meticulous painting, by using the very direct way “Saluting to Carravaggio” and his unique medications,has shed lustre to the history of art; The local artist Ma Han simply uses discarded bricks from the construction sites of Beiing.  Indeed, responses from the soul allow memories directly enter into the endless circles of life. Existence and language, in the passion of centrfugation, to which time shows its most preference, are recoveries to the memory.


6.Peng Yong, who regards the structure of relief-like textures as the visual language of mind, manually made his work (“Abandoned City: Bubbles of Illusion 3”) walk into the abundant and unsophisticated memory of him; What is more unsophisticated would be the work of “Windows of Minds” by a young genius Ke Huang, suddenly making us envy at his carefree lives; While the work "Yi" by Liu Yi glides into the structure of internal consciousness of a person, and it requires using the techniques of mind-read and psychoanalysis to interprete those extremely complexed and mysterious lines; “Landscape inside the Body” by Jiang Heng utilises a large scale metaphor for diseases——the pills that are incomparably wonderful, rendering us a joyful touch of sadness that is unprepared.


7.Su Rui’s "The Big Lizard", coming back all along the way from Miami, runs into a meditative picture and also brings a joyful touch of Pop art. The thin silks at that time seem only to be for the purpose of converting to spiritual materials; Happiness can never be enough. In Li Wei’s performance, people symbolizing four categories of religions rose up above the sea of Baudrillard in Venice, stressing freedom and happiness that have come into relization; This time, Liu Jiahua will allow the moon to rise in front of his eyes and to cover his ideal homeland; The floating picture of Liu Lining reminds us that memory is as same as the island. Everthing is rising up including the memorial rheroric of your whipspers.



8.The series of “Red Memory, My Childhood" by Chen Wenling along with the imporant exhibitions hold one after another, entirely remind one to recall Epictetus, a stoics philosopher in ancient Rome as well as one of his expressions——freedom is a virtue; The three-screen synchornised animation called“ Flying Boat” created by Wu Junyong has rendered a tactile appeal to us, which is full of absurdeness and vividness in the atmosphere of the memory, as the history of a man is destined to be a decoding process of absurdness.“Riverside Scene at Qingming Festival” is a six-meter ink performance of Zhu Xiaodi, which though symbolises an irreparable destruction to the classical chinese memory, allows memories to find a paradoxical metaphor; The 3D printing of Wang Yang’s “Chinese Characters”depicts an obsession for the objects of inventing, reminding us of the sense of weight and questioning the way of our recongnition in the past. 


9. Let us go back to “The properties” by Ren Hongwei”, in which the direct morphemes of personal memories are simple enough to date back to the tradition since modernismLi Wenfeng has superimposed various kinds of technical materials to “ A Family Portrait” from his childhood——images and videos, silks and ink, allow the past to fall into confusions; The “Horizontal Bar” from Ma Brothers offers us a very sweet question——whose kids are unwilling to play? It is the childhood that is full of sweetness but hard to explain; Zhang Qiushi’s “Chinese Class” is a minature painting, depicting a memory that is as fine as the silk. We witness the evidence of Kafka’s prophecies that youths are just wonderful.


10. Memories invariably have a lyrical sadness like a running account. Feminism is considered as a kind of language; The classic is eternal and what could transcend are memories, flesh and their courterparts. From the paper installation by Qiu Yuwen, the “ Paper Wedding Dress” by Han Shuying, the sophisticated behaviour of Feng Ling and the painting “Salute to Ingres” by Kangyu, We can see an irony as well as a peep to time.


11.Memory is always pure in its poetic nature. Can’t we really hear the singings if we cannot see the noises? Where are molecules that constitute those images that can be seen with eyes opened but disappeared long time ago? Two entirely different rhtorics about heaviness are existing in the high-density carving wood from “Those Years” by Wu Yuren and the earth soil from “Lao Wan” by Wang Gang;The hand-drawn classical garden in Shao Wenhuan’s "Twilight Garden 2" should appear as the sun set ; Gao Run Sheng’s "Leaving the Station" offers a surreality of mirror and a narrative being distantly familiar ; It is unknow whether the "Porcelain Car" by Ma Jun is heading to the depth or the future of memories. Where will it go—— to the tranquility of luxury or to the spectrum of reality?


12.People repeately referred to Shi Guo rui and his “Pinhole Imaging”. Minds in here dovetail perfectly with the lengh of time of vacuum exposure----life is short and unpredictable, which has been infinitely slowed down to go back to the camera obscura of memories. This piece of work, the “Beijing CBD”, completing after two days’ exposure, makes one feel that in every day filled with the trash, we merely live in a dream.


13.The digital photography "Buddha" by Qu Ya is originally a buddist portrait of historical objectivity, involving an eternal sense of religion that cuts to the memory. Through digital process, the work represents a slit-like combination of repeated circles. The new images of this invention are to be dissolved while being reproduced. In those dizzy pictures, the highest value still concerns the towns and houses in a space and time running like water.


14.The rhetoric of memories seems endless and it looks as if it comes to the spacious square to communicate in the guise of memories.Here the “Atmosphere and Dyeing” by Wag Min contains the exquisite technique of tempera from Renaissance that allows the chinese landscape to reach a touch of jade; Ma Yan’s “Mother and Daughter Relations” attempts to explore the blood boundary during binding and fleeting; Jiang Ling’s arrow that shoot the future will guide memories of what risks can be taken, so one may turn to for advice of dominoes.



15.In Meng Baishen`s series of "Barcode", the black and white which are composed by a pencil hinder the barcodes of "Quran", "The Bible", "Tao Te Ching" and "The Diamond Sutra" are modeled in disguise. Information and abstraction which create beauty, at the end of the memory chains, reach a more certain value. With Zheng Yiqiang`s「Static To」, when he was in a foreign town, spending a New Year alone with his lovesickness, the colour system of neon which rejects the classic profound of scatter perspective, just like a stare into the neon lights at night, half bright, but half in the darkness. Let us to put aside temporarily our unceasing desire to pursue the artists, for life itself continues its paradox, to bring memory with unending beauty.

Contemporary Art and Private Memories

Anying Chen (Head of Department of Art History, Academy of Art and Design, Tsinghua University)

We can treat memories from public and private categories. But this is not to say, there is an individual memory, and there’s also a group memories that’s not intentional. if the memories belong to individuals, we record them down.It could be private diaries; it could also be oral history to be transmitted to the future. But from this angle it won’t allow the thoughts to go too far. To memories, it's not about whose memories or what kind of memories that is important, but it is rather about what memories present to us. But who would see through the contribution of thoughts through the surface from the brain waves?


In any era, memories can be categorized from its content to public ones and private ones. Usually, only the memories that have public values can be entered to history and art.But whether this memory has this public value mostly doesn’t depend on the witness but rather the current affairs. The left wing wood carving, The Stars, New wave of the 85s, these are art movements that were contributed by current affairs, all benefited from the common memories of the era. The artists from 1970s, 80s and the 90s have the common life experience, therefore similar memories, but it’s hard to say that their memories are universal. Because there is a magnificent system to explain the dispersion of memories of circumstances there are universality between memories, which make it into a whole. The memories of the younger generation are common but might not be universality, like sands that are alike but can’t really form a whole. The memories of the current era are like the state of the loose sand, they are connected by the never-ending information from the internet.


The contemporary young artists’ creations are often too is a very common phenomenon. But if you want them to choose a common topic to create, will it be able to trigger a common concern? There are kinds of artists who create arts through the photos on the news or finding the possibility of pop style or Dadaism style through the interesting ways of entertaining in this era. They do treat art more seriously than the elder artists who were involved in the more important themes of art creation projects. But are the arts that are based on social news and entertainment industry more meaningful than piece of newspaper or a movie? Do we really need a shoddy newspaper reader to publish their comments to every news? Do we really need another way to see a movie that’s entirely entertaining?


In China, the era that needs artists to deliver opinions to the major society or history problems is over along with the The Stars and the New wave of the 85s. The western ideologists used “The end of art history” to describe this situation of the kind of similarity of the surface. Art will not belong to a certain directional history, it wont development from impressionism to post impressionism and then cubism anymore. It doesn’t need a leading theory to end another leading theory, but going back to the era where you only need one theory to explain the arts. The traditional aesthetics that’s beaten by Duchamp’s fountain made a comeback, art, once again, has been regarded as the medium for the artist to express their own emotions and thoughts. When it’s the era when aesthetics gets the upper hand, there is a clear standard for art. In today’s art world, especially the Chinese’s art world, this standard became obscure. The opinions and tastes from experts are no longer the important part to determine the value of the art. The value of the work was determined by the abstract, long distanced marketing mechanism long before the critics even got started. What critics can do is to explain to the confused audience why can be painting be sold with such a high price. People want to seek a reason, just like when they need a fake pocket just for decoration.


Creation becomes not only a personal, accidental thing, including comments to the creation, became a personal and accidental. In this situation, creations that rely on personal memories went be worse than rely on public memories; in some situations it would be more sincere. People often say, China lack the public arts. But when we are in a society that lacks publicity, what can public art do besides interacting with the audiences, discussing the public issues superficially? To those artists who are recognized by the high-end market and the western critics, whatever they do is approved. They could talk about some private feelings on their bodiescould, talk about the prison culture and general human rights. But no matter these discussion is truthful or not, it only mattered with the price of the works, but nothing about the feelings to the world from a common people. But those artists who just joined the market, the ones we can meet in real life, are more able to trigger our feelings and resonance. As long as they are honest enough, even if it’s some little personal feelings, it could still trigger our similar feelings and thoughts through this process of feeling. In the deeper parts, people are connected. 


To explain these kinds of art works, we don’t need contemporary or post contemporary art history, nor do we need post-structuralism, post colonial or other fancy theories——only Benedetto Croce or Guangqian Zhu’s aesthetics are enough for us. The instinct of form and the form of instinct——art events entrust forms for artists’ personal feelings; art works become artists’ medium to express their personal emotions. This kind of creation, no matter its ready-made product, body performance or new media of video, is a medium to express the artist’s thoughts and is indisguishable compared to traditional oil painting or Chinese ink painting. The plainess of the way of this explanation, for the media professionals who are used to give media coverage to the Venice Biennial, lacks attractions but is closer to the truth. We cannot use arrested development to help the Chinese artists get over their era. 


Chinese contemporary art is in a special phase. In some way, it is not decaying or ending but is just beginning. As part of an aborted political movement, the new wave of the 85s has not yet achieved what avant-garde art has in the west besides mindlessly mimicing of the trends and schools of the west. More importantly, when the 85s has been written into art history, the contemporary art market in China is almost a blank. Until today, prosperity still mainly remains in the speculative market, but the primary market that faces ordinary consumers and collectors is just getting started. In the view of history, market, especially the primary market is often ignored by art historians, but it consititutes an essential base where the western modern and contemporary art occurs and develops. The art that is not in contact with the local consumers and with the local insitututions is an art divorced form reality. Chinese contemporary art, once detached from the connection with the liberation discourse, would be seen as a seires of imitations of the western avantgarde art so its run-up price would therefore be suspected as a western trap, which is where the reason lies. As time will finally come to reveal the whole truth, Chinese contemporary art will eventually face a more realistic self. In this sense, what occurred in contemporary China——“ the end of art” and “ the regression of aesthetics” are not too sad.  

About Memories

Zhongjian Chai (Independent Critic) 

Biennale China Italia is an art event, involving an art narrative that belongs to the memories of the two countries in world history at present. It does not only imply the current conditions in which contemporary art lies in the 21st century, but also indicates a correlation between present being and the energetic life lines behind these conditions. Here are activities participated by artists, ordinary labors, cristics with great self-reflections and relevant people who have become the memory but still attempt to incessantly creat memories, recreating a storage of memories. How does the memory, the one that has been called the accumulation of human civilization occur?


1. Choices and Memories


Existence, especially the one that can be called history belongs to memories. Personal growth, flouring history of family, transition history of dynasty as well as evolution history of mankind, constitute the universe where when its existence is beyond our vision, history and memories cannot be saved. Failing to be saved does not mean its inexistence. Therefore, it is the experiences drawn from things and events that are related to memories. Even though we have been through a lot of substantial events, the truth of existence is still far from being wholely stored. That is to say, memories are the result of human selection. So probability is the most basic mode to select memories, by which ability of memory is presented according to intensity of the event and quantity of the index of its affected area, as well as depth of what etched in the cortex of memories. Because of selecting, one is hard to possess an entirely real memory, and therefore there exist memories functioning according to self-preference as well as the fact that things being chosen are probably some inventions or falsifications that are not existed. This offers a hint to us——to improve the capability of selecting and to enhance the ability to distinguish right and wrong are the essential requirements for one’s memory construction which are inspired by human’s basic qualities. Selecting is a special way to memorise that belongs to humans, which is neither an outer storage like a hard drive nor is a negative response that belongs to inferior creatures. It can be said that because of the selective activities, history and memories became results of the creative narratives of humans. Personal qualities, ethinical qualities and naitonal qualities are selectively consitituted by specific humans and groups in the rivers existed for centuries. Moreover, just for the potentials of selective ability, human selection starts evolving an ability to dicover, to invent and to creat. Therefore, people could clearly experience the mission and meaning during the evolution of human civilization in aspects of scientific discovery and artistic creation. These are thoughts aroused by the fact that the art discovered and attained in the China-Italy Biennale regarding ”memories” has consented to civilizations and memories.


2. Discoveries and Memories


The darkness of death is the eclipse of memory. The brightness makes us see things and phenomenon existing in this world, while in darkness no works could be seen. “To show up” could be the manifestation of an existing being itself, whereas “to find out” is to illuminate things that could not be manifested by using the light, seeming like to give a ray of light to the night. Whether on earth the existence of human beings is being given or through self-exploration? Indeed, self-existence-self-manifestation itself needs a perspective to explore, and through enhancing manifestation in terms of of sensitivity and profoundness of what we feel, we may be able to see the truth deeply hiding behind things. When the feelings reach to the limit far beyond our recognition, human beings start to touch those feelings by means of inventing things and to see those remote universal pictures in which humans have not been born yet. To explore indicates to manifest; to explore means to uncover things. The fundamental meanings of them lie in the strenghs that eliminate our blindness and enhance the light. The join force of exploration and memory leads to a reflective ability and this profound relfection allows us to understand what obstruct our visions.The most straightforward reflection is——one should be alert not to cover something probably is unknown by something is already known. What an artwork, an event or a narrative could offer us will exit in two ways: first, to become a “stereoype” of memory; Stereotype is an idolent evil in the evolution of mankind, which prevents us from picking new things with totally fresh and positive attitute, just like regarding history of art or artworks as the existing ojects or contexts, thus gradually losing perception to grow and to explain. Second, to become a continuously evolving platform, as perception has to be achieved through the activities of exploration, invention and creation. From above we know that artworks derive from the explorating eyes of artist——the explorating eyes are rooted in recognition of exploration; whereas recognition of exploration exists in the reflections of dilemmas caused by the darkeness of mankinds themselves and exists in the hope that wish to run away. Just for the exploration of the hope itself, shall we start to understand why scientific development, invention and creation of arts are so important to human existence and why we human need to sustain our beings and gains through the ability of exploration?


3Creations and memories


When reaching to the place of discovery, invention and creation, for a further step we witness the very nature of creation: if Newton himself had not discovered the law of gravitation, it still will be discovered by other people one day, but just with different namesWithout Da Vinci, there will never exist a memory left by Mona Lisa’s smile. Here, a watershed between science and art obviously appeared: science discovers and uncovers things that already existed but have not shown up yet, whereas art creates things that never existed. Mona Lisa is originally a non-existence, deriving from the invention of Da Vinci. Indeed, it is Da Vinci and artists themselves who are the motivation to production invetions. The strengh and weakness of this motivation is just the ability presented by the memory structure of artists. Moreover, the inventing activities of artists imply a special quality of human existence——the greatest hope that proposition of invention offers to human lies in that a new possibility different from that in the original world will be constructed by human inventions. As stated above, creations derive from fulfillment of wishes, and wishes are the quality of spirits——therefore creations are the embodiments of spirits. The meaning of spirits indicates an experimental exploration developed from the expectations that humans had towards hope. The nature of this hope is a confirmation to imperishability——the remaining forms of materials or flesh after dissolving——as an existence of culture,spirits as well as spiritual forms. As an existence of memory: Mona Lisa’s Da Vinci is not dead, Confucian morals’s Confucius is not vanished, and countless spiritis after flesh dying out are not disappeared.

Human Beings’ Memories and Contemporary Art Exhibition

Jiaping Chen (Chief Editor of Being 3 Gallery)

Memories is the topic of the 2014 Biennale China-Italia, this is a very meaningful topic for art exhibitions. Because we all know: students need memories to learn new knowledge and skills to improve ones ability. Actors need memories to accurately express their own emotions, languages and gestures in order to complete a successful artistic performance. Without memories, individuals won’t be able to learn, their behaviors would be depended on instincts. Therefore, memories are significantly important to the developments of the human society. We can say that, without learning and memories, there are no futures of the human civilization. 


A unique way of memorizing is one of the essential qualities of an artist. This kind of memorization needs biological inheritance as a condition. But more importantly, is the professional needs of artists and long-term memory trainings. Which lead them to have different kind of ways of memorizing. These ways of memorizing include recording, memorandum, environment, dictionary, children’s book, discussion, and notes. 《人仙经》:我父毘沙门天王,回还本宫,为我宣说,我悉记忆,无所忘失。”Here it mentions that memory refers to remembering and not forgetting, but also includes the impression of things from the past. Memories, reminiscences, recall. Memories is the reflection of the past experiences, it’s a mentally process of building up and preserving the personal experiences. The opposite of memories is oblivion, but if we understand oblivion it will help us to understand memories. We can say that memory has an objective existence. It is a trace of changes in the material system. Memories are the past experiences from people’s brain, a complicated psychological activity. The process of developing memories including memorization, maintain, reproduction and reminiscence. Memories have three systems, instantaneous, shorter and longer ones. There are visualized memories for perceptions. There are episodic memories that came from personal experiences, for example time, location, people and scenarios. There are also emotional memories that involve emotions that are being experienced by an individual. There are also semantic memories, or we can call it logic memories, which are the memories concluded and constructed by language and knowledge. There are also physical memories that are based on the body’s motion state and function. In fact, the earliest memories from human beings came from memories of the nature. But people are used to the memories from the brain, therefore the memories of the brain is the special part of the nature memories. Memories became the important motivation and opportunity of the artistic creations. Memories can be the thoughts of artists and initial shaping of personality; it could also be a sensitive part of the artistic creation, and an extremely important material. Leo Tolstoy believed that artists lived with memories. 

6th century BC, the ancient Greek 帕蒙尼德believed that human memories consists light and dark, cold and hot, this mixture of both. As long as this mixture is not disturbed, the memory is a whole. Once this mixture starts to change there will be oblivion. 5th century BC, ancient Greek 迪奥泽尼 mentioned another idea about memories, he believed that memories are composed by the oxygen from the body. Same as 帕蒙尼德, he also believed that once this balance is disturbed, we will start to experience oblivion. But the first one to start the important concept is Plato from 4th century BC; his theory is called “wax plate hypothesis” He believed that, people receive impressions through events, just like objects with edges leave a mark on the wax plate. In European’s history of psychology, 洛克 first mentioned about the important phenomenon of memories: think. The first psychologist that started the systematic experiments on memories is Hermann Ebbinghaus from Germany. His two main contributions are two parts: one is the strict quantity measurement on memories, second is the important research he did based on the laws of memories and created the famous “Ebbinghaus forgetting curve”. 


Besides individual memories, there are also group memories. Group memory is a unique culture. This group can be a religious, a regional culture, or it could a country or race. This memory could be scattered, fragmental, and oral; it could also be concentrated, official and textual. It could be a recall to a recent event, but it could also be a retrospect to an achievement from an ancestor. It could be a happy memory from the events; it could also be a traumatic one. It could be a record from the officials; it could also be spread from the folks. 


In the presence of such abundant human memories, we could totally say that: memory is the cradle for artistic thinking and personality, the storage for creativity materials, the field for galloping the artistic imagination. The ancient Greek called the sister of Muse the goddess of arts the daughter of memories. Memories is the topic of 2014 Biennale China-Italia, aimed to create an infinite artistic miracle for human civilization!