From Exhibition to Book: A Questionnaire on the Future of China

Innovative hybrid project surveys artists

HONG KONG, May 16, 2012 — Philip Tinari, Director of the Ullens Center for Contemporary Art, joined artist Wang Jianwei and Hans Ulrich Obrist, Co-Director of Exhibitions and Programs and Director of International Projects at the Serpentine Gallery, at Asia Society Hong Kong Center for a discussion celebrating the launch of the first volume in a new series of books, The Future will be... China Edition. Melissa Chiu, Asia Society's Senior Vice President for Global Arts Cultural Programs, moderated the conversation.

Why China? Anticipating that question, Obrist explained that "In the news, 'China and future' or 'future and China' are often associated, therefore it would be interesting to hear from Chinese artists' perspective about the future.” He also suggested that "the picture is often much more complex — though sometimes it is made [into a] stereotype about what the Chinese future will be."

Chiu proceeded by turning to Tinari, inviting him to explain the process of the book's production. "In 2010, 25-30 Chinese artists witnessed the opening of the [Serpentine Gallery's] China Power Station exhibition. We had an interesting marathon conversation. We kind of wanted more, a lot of clarity, a lot of translation, there weren't any conclusions. We thought of what to make of the massive day we had, the idea of doing this book kind of emerged,” said Tinari. Instead of doing interviews, he said that they took a "smart question" approach, elaborating that he saw the book as "the greatest kind of questionnaire project" which "takes on such a complexity and rhythm that the production is just an interesting document of China in human history."

"A book is an exhibition that can be sent, can be shipped, can be multiplied," added Obrist, elaborating on why they turned the marathon talk with a new generation of Chinese artists into a book after the fourth iteration of the exhibition.

Wang, whose contribution is included in the book, offered an observation of the Chinese view of time. He commented that "in China, you can see people wishing for something in the future that does not exist in the present." Wang continued, "Chinese [people] holds a utilitarian view towards time .... They do not respect time." He later joked about not wanting to discuss China any more, hoping to focus more on art.

Reported by Ashley Wu

Video: Watch the complete program (42 min., 6 sec.)