Curator: Xiang Liping
In today’s society, the shanzhai phenomenon grows at an incredible pace, with instances of plagiarism occurring in endless succession. Looking back to the beginning of China’s contemporary art, one finds the lingering accusation that it followed the lead of Western countries. But in the context of Chinese historical art, imitating the work of predecessors, following a path of incremental change, was a regular practice dating back to the literati painting of the late Qing dynasty. Are the Chinese really, as Westerners have suggested, failing to respect copyright or lacking in an understanding of innovation? Is there a relationship between China’s current shanzhai phenomenon, appropriation in the artistic process, and our long-established linmo tradition of imitating earlier works? If Westerners can “appropriate” without adding even minor variation, why can’t the Chinese produce shanzhai versions with some form of alteration? Will the flood of duplications and replications affect the innovative development of art?
Through an overview of contemporary Chinese art, and specifically art production related to copying, this exhibition proposes for the first time an evaluation of Chinese appropriation art that expands and transforms Western appropriation art theory.
Chinese appropriation art contains at least three forms: linmo, which draws on China’s artistic tradition; appropriation, related to Western contemporary art; and art production inspired by the current phenomenon of shanzhai. In surveying artworks that use these methods, the exhibition investigates the relationships between replication, innovation and originality; new technologies, new materials and artistic creation; intellectual property laws, knowledge sharing and forwarding generational knowledge.
Copyleft is appropriated from the GNU General Public License, which is the most widely used free software licensing agreement. Here, Copyleft is used to represent three manifestations of copying (linmo, appropriation, and shanzhai) that occupy a common ground.
Indeed, in this age of digital reproduction, most people can’t escape the implications of Copyleft and appropriation: they are implicated in the copying and pasting of found materials from the Internet, in pirated DVDs….”Individual copying is to follow; wide spread copying gives birth to innovation.” As the development and popularization of new technologies liberates the creativity of the general public, perhaps it is time to use a more neutral, even appreciative gaze in sizing up shanzhai.
Imitation related to traditional Chinese Art
Linmo is a tradition in historical Chinese painting, used not only as a way to learn technique, but to preserve the methods employed in important works, and is itself a technique of artistic creation. In this process, the artist is not simply making a copy of a painting in the regular sense, but rather uses new methods and media to create a new experience from the classical form.
Featured artists include: Chen Chun-Hao, Ni Youyu, Peng Wei, Qiu Zhijie, Yang Yongliang, Yao Jui-chung, Xia Xiaowan, Yu Xuhong
Appropriation related to Western Contemporary Art
“Appropriation” is the complete or partial use of found materials or preexisting artworks. By appropriation, the essential meanings linked to the original material are deconstructed, and simultaneously new meanings are assigned. While appropriation sometimes serves as a shortcut, used in artistic creation to function as a convenient channel for individual art production, abuse of the process has led at times to “vulgar” work.