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> James Bradburne, The Centro di Contemporanea Strozzina
> Franziska Nori, China China China!!!

  > Joe Martin Hill, Taking Stock
> Francesca Dal Lago, China Is So Far Away

> Wang Jianwei, Why Must We talk about“China”, now?

> Davide Quadrio, Once Again: China!

> Lothar Spree, 40+4 Art is not enough, not enough!

> Li Zhenhua, Multi-Archaelogy

> Zhang Wei, Throwing Dice
  Why Must We talk about “China”, now?
Wang Jianwei
  Today, we hear the most amazing news about China. In the 1980s the country was described as exciting, and in the 1990s a picture of it was formed through endless revelations and debates. But the present image has been created through a multitude of news reports with an almost “archaeological” approach to China, all focusing—as if in tacit agreement—on a “sleeping” country apparently hidden by an “iron curtain” that still has to be raised.

I have no desire to get bogged down in commenting on “internal” issues concerning China, but I wish to stress that the journalistic stories hide much more profound meanings, so that (who knows why?) these meanings, and also ideas, are not evident. The reports merely provide specific information (minimalia), which is more seductive, but, at the same time, leaves an almost bitter taste in the mouth, as if something had been left unsaid, were still to be discovered… But what interests me is why these “revealing” words circulate so widely? Why is “China” such an all-embracing topic? The “China” topic is brought up so frequently, yet there are only two viewpoints, those of its supporters and its detractors, black and white. When carefully examined, these reasonings prove to be based on “circumscribed” analyses, and to follow two completely different trends.

On the one hand, there is a tendency to construct an image of the new Chinese social panorama on the basis of quantitative data, organized in such a way as to reveal China’s “progress”. Thus we see data on the speed with which steel and concrete are manufactured; on the length of roads constructed and the areas of houses built; on the purchase of all kinds of luxury goods and how much they cost. All this is coupled with the uncontrollable and manipulative buying power of the market (nothing is more persuasive than the idea of being able to buy an enormous fleet of aircraft in one go).1 Therefore, the quantities, prices and volumes concerning any business transaction are seen as testifying to the establishment of a “new world order”. As if to complement this data, information/images appear in glossy magazines, putting a “face” on the abstract numbers referred to above, and transforming that “unreal” data into a visible reality. That is how wealth and its “visible” facets become the best way to build one’s self-confidence (self-determination). In recent times, this madness has been extended to the cultural sphere, and art—crushed by market values—is being questioned. The new standards described above, that is to say the idea of the economic miracle in China, have even been applied to art (as they have in all other fields), which has become an “object” in the struggle for wealth. Art has been “reordered” and “recodified” by actual market methods, and has become an economic terrain to be explored. In this new system of values, it is the owner (market) who dictates the rules of the game.

By contrast, there is a tendency to create a kind of “Chinese box”, which is described otherwise, as if it were part of “another” scenario, as if it were different. Thus China is sealed in a receptacle that is “special, unique”, and therefore particular. This forced definition results in China’s being experienced as a singular and abstract reality, as if it were an object separated from the rest of the world. Hence, Chinese values are seen as standardized, and the Chinese “way” as linked to a particular cultural judgement.

These two methods of analyzing China use the same basic data. At any event, they have produced “codified ideas about China”, each of which has its particular truth, and has in some way created a particular image of the country. We can only accept the idea of China’s “extraordinariness” if we analyze the country through its ethics, and in so doing we cannot but recognize its “existence”. “Existence”2 is all-embracing and has been philosophically demonstrated through irrefutable logic: existence controls dialectics, knowledge and even science. Under the constraint of existence, everything else becomes farcical and laughable, pathetic even, and at the same time “existence” makes all thoughts and knowledge serve a purpose. Therefore, concerning the existence of the box known as China, we have already lost the possibility of having “other” things to say, we have no scientific queries, no questions on the structures of knowledge or on controversial sociological meanings. So I am taking both sides, and, apart from my comment on “existence”, I have nothing more to say. Now “they” allow us to discuss art, but such discussion is often limited to appreciation or to polemics on art as an object in market news, or simply represents the medium that reflects a particular political moment. In conclusion, it suffices to say that “existence” has become the instrument that controls logic. Faced with this existence, whether it be right or wrong, I hope to maintain a normal judgement—in fact, I don’t buy the idea of a truth that becomes natural because it is proved by large numbers, and that is why I do not simply become a supporter of either side.

We can say goodbye to any attempt at dominant thought! Shall we bid farewell to the “China issue”, too?