‘Nowhere to Live’ Series Exhibition



The Origins of "Nowhere to Live" "Nowhere to Live" is a metaphor for the nomadic and contextually fluid existence of China’s young generation of contemporary artists. Whether it is travel across cultural difference, between geographical location, or amidst varying spiritual levels within one physical environment, the experience of being “in between” is an incessant reminder to the artist of his own state of being. From anxiety to doubt, from internal contradiction to self-reflection, these young artists transcend their own starting points through self-directed practice, expanding and stretching out to further frontiers of imagination.

Today's generation of young artists has been labeled post-70's or post-80's in a restless era which fawns over the novel and mould-breaking, an outside definition of self-worth is something passively and unwillingly attached to them—outside of what they truly envision for themselves. Uncertainty from a superficial to a more profound level gradually permeates their lives, leaving them nowhere to hide and no place to escape to. For artists returning from abroad, it might be said that from the day they left China, they have faced this state of nowhere-ness. “Running” to other countries, they have experienced even more the process of searching for themselves and for stability. They have experienced anxiety with regard to their identities and the need for a reconstruction of ideology. These have been their challenges.

However, these challenges have not caused them to vanish without a trace. The existence of any method does not necessitate the definition or proof of classifying properties, as if attached as a reference number there to enforce existing perceptions. Existence itself is, in fact, something beyond doubt, in no need of classification. Here, "Nowhere to Live" might be better understood as "Everywhere Lived" or "Ubiquitous"—a sort of dialectical co-existence. In other words, if we are trapped in a state of having nowhere to hide or store ourselves away, then we are everywhere at once.

This series exhibition is comprised of three units: "Territory," "Pending," and "Place." Each stage represents and expounds upon the reflections and solutions the artists have found through individual practices and processes of self-help, positioning themselves within the "Nowhere to Live" context. Over the course of these three stages, the exhibition conveys the spiritual aspirations of a young generation of artists, who, as they seek out a more independent creative context, also bring with them a new set of artistic values.

III: Place

The last stage of “Nowhere to Live,” place, might be said to be the ultimate goal of survival under the universal laws of nature. And in the artistic context, finding one’s place is something that requires a process of experimentation. This process could fall within any mainstream ideological framework; it is very likely that the artist will first be a parasite on some pre-established aesthetic environment or linguistic system, drawing nutrients from it, developing and growing with it. Then, after a certain reaction or mutation, the artist will ultimately breed and sustain his or her own life, returning “home” and endowing his or her art works with new, intrinsic value.

The point of departure for Funa Ye and Peiyuan Jiang, the two artists featured in this phase of the exhibition, is intervention into and penetration of existing value structures. From this starting point, they use their personal practices to activate and enliven artistic life and orientations of value. The act of challenging known criteria seems to be an intuitive shortcut, but there is clearly also some risk involved, and so the method they adopt is based in forceful resistance and intense discussion, resulting in what is often a  powerfully resonant back-and-forth with audiences. As viewers read their works, stale ideologies will be collapsed and refuted, and the true experience evoked by their own language will be quietly transplanted in place of the old ones, forming a new consensus.

Funa Ye

 After graduating from the Central Academy of Fine Art in 2008, Funa Ye got her master's degree in fine arts in London. Her works focus on daily life and social authority; combining the creative narrative approaches of experimental art with experimental video as her medium, she subtly draws out the irony of political propaganda and its attendant numbness and flavorlessness, simultaneously creating a utopian reality within an ideological framework of authority. With a number of everyday consumer products, she applies or parodies formulaic ideological manipulations of the "masses," providing ordinary people an alternative value system within the historical framework.

In her work “How I became a illiteracy,” Ye collects copies of local London newspapers and re-treats the English words from their pages according to her own personal interpretations, using black crayons to add letters on top of the originals and to scrawl a kind of graffiti. For choppy words that she has difficulty understanding, she simply paints a black box over them, or tampers with their letters to change their meaning. Lastly, she re-orders the words into illegible, or "illiterate" passages of text.

Peiyuan Jiang

Peiyuan Jiang went to the U.K. to study fine arts in 2002, where he attained both his bachelor's and master's degrees before returning to China last year.  Jiang's works are primarily concerned with the relationship between painting and image, the "original" and the "copy," as well as with the mutually influential relationship between the public's aesthetic sense and the value of artworks. In his recent series, he works on top of cheap pre-fabricated flea market-bought oil paintings, exploring images related to image and painting or possessing in "painterly effect." He investigates the boundaries of Painting/Drawing, shading and covering surface colors with graphite pencil in order to eliminate certain forms of visual information, thereby converting old aesthetics into new aesthetic significance. Jiang is quick to embody a sense of drama, marked by the cold, black humor and starkly contrasting visual experience produced by the context of his work.