One of the consequences of globalization is the globalization of migration. What is the meaning of the “globalization of Chinatown?” There is no way to calculate the population of the Chinese diaspora, just as there is no way to calculate how many Chinatowns there are in the world. As a consequence of the migration of people with different geographical, linguistic, cultural, ethical, class, ideological, political backgrounds, the Chinese international community is already a hybrid community of ‘migrants’. The curatorial method of the Long March seeks to uncover the linkages between history and the present; between the visual narratives and imaginations of different societies; between the contexts and texts understood through the language of art. Continuing with the Long March methodology of movement and journey, Long March – Chinatown will march for an indeterminate period of time across different geographies and countries, histories and cultures. Chinatown can take place in the public spaces of any Chinatown around the world or not in Chinatown at all. It can happen in a museum or biennale space, it can be an extension of a large scale international exhibition – extending the traditional art spaces into the lives of the general public. Chinatown can take place in an artist’s studio, or in the private happenings of a notebook. It can be a cooperation between Chinese and international artists, it can be a collective collaboration, an individual artist, or an assemblage of individual works. It is not limited to any topic, medium, or form. Here, Chinatown is a visual space. The project addresses the narrow understanding of cultural characteristics and differences, widening and expanding the methodological understanding of the history and geography of visual culture initiated by the first segment of the Long March to include specific works within specific contexts. The narrative set forth by the globalization of Chinatown is about the repetition of return and departure, and how each process invariably is linked and turns into the other. We are always re-arriving, but in different forms. Long March – Chinatown is not simply a “thematic” replacement to the Chinese national pavilion filled with contemporary Chinese art, but rather an international campaign that enters into the different temporal and spatial sites of experience/action, as well as construction and reproduction.
Manifestation 1: Yokohama Triennial, 2005
Manifestation 2: California College of Art, San Francisco, 2005
Manifestation 3: Auckland Triennial, 2007
Chinatown at 2nd Yokohama Triennial
September 28–December 18, 2005
The Yokohama Chinatown was first established during the Chinese Ming Dynasty (1871). Over 100 years since its establishment, Chinatown has developed from relying on the businesses of the “three knives” (hair-clippers, chef’s knife, and tailor’s scissors), to today where there exists a well developed and independent economic culture and social system.
In this context, “nostalgia” has been converted into a reciprocal experience and strategy. Within this self-recognized world, how do we use the vision and method of culture to deconstruct and distinguish between those spiritual/psychological spaces that either exist, have been extinguished, or completely altered, and the space left between the individual cultural discrepancies and the collective subconscious memory? How is all of this being covered and symbolized in the “ordinary”?
Because of the relationship the history of Yokohama has with today’s social and political-economic conditions and Chinatown, the Yokohama Triennial presented an ideal context to realize Long March Project–Chinatown. The Long March Collective included 6 Chinese artists, who each produced works in collaboration with Long March. Production of the works created a connection between the exhibition space and Chinatown. A portion of the works were carried out in Chinatown spaces, creating a relationship with the art audience and the people on the streets of Chinatown that lies somewhere between art and ordinary life. The Long March team also conducted a survey at numerous venues in both the triennial space and Chinatown.
(This is a curatorial proposal for a section integral to the scope of Yokohama Triennial.)
Long March Collective (Guo Fengyi, Hu Xiancheng, Qiu Zhijie, Xu Zhen, Zhao Gang, and an anonymous artist), Jiang Jie, Chen Xiaoyun, Yao Jui-Chung
Introduction of artworks
Guo Fengyi, Chinatown, painting and performance, 2005
Guo Fengyi, a 63-year-old woman artist with psychic powers, is presenting a drawing performance. Her work is informed by the concept of the Tao (The Way), a worldview that originated in ancient China. Taoism, which appears in overseas Chinese societies throughout the world, has become a symbol of a universal philosophy of life as well as the religion of a particular ethnic group. This work is not just a Taoist experiment but an exploration of different places in China and Japan. Which are both under the influence of the same philosophy.
Hu Xiangcheng, Building Code Violations, 2005
Building Code Violations questions the concept of violation and the reasonableness of what is considered correct or standard. What is correct? Who determines the standard? Many buildings that are in violation of building codes can be found in China because of changes made under policies of reform or liberation. The concept of violation includes such meanings as temporary, portable and evasive. It represents everyday resistance to the administrative and legal system. If Chinatowns are imaginary constructs in relation to the real China, we might see the superficial Western appearance of many large buildings being constructed in China today as the prototype of another kind of Chinatown.
Qiu Zhijie, Slowly Approaching, 2005
It’s a performance and installation based on the lion dance, a traditional performance based on myths from the Tang Dynasty, which is held on festival days to ward off evil. The artist thinks of the relationship between the elements of “hiding-camouflage”, “play-lion dance”, “performance-Chinatown”, and “display-main exhibition hall” as corresponding to actual problems of ethnic culture. The condition of motion in this work alludes to the “Long March of Chinese culture.” Through his actions, Qiu metaphorically expresses the gap between geopolitics and the migration of cultures as well as the conflicts within the same culture. The performance of the lion dance, carried out in Chinatown and the exhibition hall, is one of the most familiar aspects of Chinese celebrations in China. It will add a festive note to the triennial.
Xu Zhen, 8848, 2005
Xu Zhen’s 8848 is an installation that contains a false documentary video showing the process of carving out the Himalayas as well as fake documents and equipment related to this non-existent project. Xu questions the concept of “the facts”, ironically suggesting that “everything is play-acting,” and the idea of a “universal perception” common to all human beings is false. This also applies to the “facts” that appear in discussions of “transplanted Chinatowns.” Xu’s work explores misreading of Chinese history and their relationship to places of transplanted history, that is, Chinatown. It is an ironic narrative that comments on ambition, personal desire, and the blind pursuit of betterment of the human race, all causes of political, economic, cultural and historical breakdown in today’s world.
Zhao Gang, The Harlem School of Socialist Realism Study, 2002
The project was initiated by Chinese-American artist Zhao Gang, as a casual discussion around his dinner table in Harlem. Key local African American and Chinese artists and thinkers took part – Satch Hoyt, Franklin Sirmans, Deborah Grant, Lilly Wei, Brett Cook-Dizney and Jeff Sonhouse. They considered the possibility of a New Social Realism, debating the facts and philosophical similarities surrounding the genesis, influences and motivations of revolutionary acts in Chinese and African American society, and the broader global arena.
Jiang Jie, Swimming Dragon, 2005
Swimming Dragon looks like the roof of a Chinese-style building, floating in the exhibition space, but also has the appearance of a moving dragon. Visitors are allowed to take home pieces of tile from the roof, and it eventually disappears as the tiles are removed one by one. The artist chose the image of the dragon as a symbol of the Chinese people, suggesting the underlying reality of volatile cultural and political movements taking place beneath the façade of a traditional Chinese building. As this work is deconstructed by the audience, a new structure will be constructed and eventually materialize next to it. In a work that invites the participation of the viewer, Jiang looks at cultural history and human survival with a sense of humor. The simultaneous deconstruction and construction and shift from one place to another suggest the rejection of narrow ethnic nationalism and lead up to the context of the Chinatown Project.
Chen Xiaoyun, Several Moments Extending to a Night, video, 2004
Images here are just some temporary fragments, which are extending to the night or being extended by the night. Turning over the cellar of your memory; climbing up the attic of your unconsciousness; walking into the back garden of your dream; moving over the flagstone of the mouth of your daydream well. Suppose that there are many ways to enter into a night and the entrance to time can be extended by sensation, then time would be just a gift that images contribute to feelings. The scenes in a mass, the obscure tone, the kid show and the mechanical banters, all of them are folded together at the moment when the night is coming. It looks like that there is a horizon waiting for numberless moving scenes.
Yao Jui-Chung, The World is For All––China beyond China, 1997
“The World Is For All” is an installation that Yao Jui-Chung has been creating since 1997 featuring images of Chinatowns throughout the world. The artist believes that this phrase, the idealistic slogan of nation-building propounded by Sun Yat-sen, founder of Chinese republic, can be applied to today’s Chinatowns. Chinatowns are special sites, where the historical memories of immigrants are mixed with the cultural characteristics of each location. They are places where people of Chinese origin are at a distance from their native country but also create a boundary bewteen themselves and the place where they live their everyday lives. In this complex social situation, marked by mutual interaction, the inhabitants are engaged in an ambivalent struggle with the problems of their own identity and how to relate to global and local influences.
Chinatown at MA in Curating Contemporary Art, California College of Art, San Francisco, USA, 2005
Long March Project director Lu Jie spent the month of November 2005 at the California College of Art (CCA), San Francisco, USA as ‘Curator in Residence’. During this time he taught a course for the ‘MA Curating Contemporary Art’ degree, using the Long March Project as a curatorial model and testing ground for the development of case study focus on one of its ongoing programs titled Chinatown. Students were divided into 3 groups to develop project proposals and make in-class presentations.
Through an introduction of the Long March Project, students examined the problems confronting contemporary curatorial practice, both from a theoretical perspective and its manifestation in exhibition form, with the aim of strengthening the relationship between theory and practice, and the international and local. By looking at particular case studies from the Long March Project, students became familiarized with the entire process of turning curatorial concept into practice, and developed their own curatorial direction and professional knowledge through research, proposal, discussion and summary. A potential ‘Long March Project – Chinatown’ to take place in the San Francisco, served as a training model where students practiced resolving common problems and contradictions faced by curators.
The course took a dual approach, not only conveying the concepts and methods of the Long March Project, but more importantly strengthening the methodology of the Long March Project through soliciting student reaction and criticisms. Therefore, the course was not only a forum for discussion and debate, but also a workshop for practical curatorial methods and strategies. The course not only presented students with constructive criticism for their professional development, but also examined the Long March itself and brought to light areas for improvement.
MA Program Curatorial Practice
Wednesdays 12-3, Room 112
Instructor: Kate Fowle
Office hours by appointment
Project research: The Long March Chinatown Project
Working with Curator in Residence Lu Jie, who is the Director of the Long March Project in China, and Pauline Yao, Assistant Curator of Chinese Art at the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco we will use The Long March curatorial project as a testing ground to develop research into potential project models for Chinatown in San Francisco. This continues the research that Lu Jie is currently conducting into alternative systems for the presentation of art to diverse audiences. (See attached course outline) You will be working in groups to develop project proposals and making in-class presentations.
Long March Curatorial proposal and outline
Long March text
Long March Context
Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, The Communist Manifesto
Mao Zedong, Selected Readings Volume 1-5
Leon Trotsky, Problem of Chinese Revolution, New Park publication, London,1969
Edgar Snow, Red Star Over China – The Classic account of the Birth of Chinese Communism, Grove Press, New York
Harrison Salisbury, The Long March, McGraw-Hill, 1987
Julia Kristeva, About Chinese Women, Marion Boyars, New York and London, 1986
Simone de Beauvoir, The Long March – An Account of Modern China, Phoenix Press, 2001
Susan Buck-Morss, Dream World and Catastrophe – The Passing of Mass Utopia in East and West, MIT Press, 2002
Nicolas Bourriaud, Relational Aesthetics, Les presses du reel, 2002
Claire Doherty, From Studio to Situations: Contemporary Art and the Question of Context, Black Dog Publishing; 2005
Miwon Kwon, One Place After Another: Site-Specific Art and Locational Identity
Alex Coles, Site-Specificity: The Ethnographic Turn， De-, Dis-, Ex-, Volume 4; Black Dog Publishing; July 2000
Simon Ford, The Situationist International, Black Dog Publishing, 2005
Okwui Enwezor et al, Documenta XI catalog
Alice Yang, Why Asia? Contemporary Asian and Asian American Art, New York University Press, 1998
Gao Minglu, Inside Out, New Chinese Art, Asia Society and San Francisco Museum of Modern Art,1999
Feng Boyi, ‘Under Under-ground’ and Others on Chinese Avant-garde Since 1990, The Monk and The Demon, Chinese Contemporary Art, Pg 59-67, Musee Art Contemporain Lyon, 2004
Do You Believe in Reality? 2004 Taipei Biennale Catalog
Techniques of the Visible, 2004 Shanghai Biennale Catalog
Sarat Maharaj with Gilane Tawadros, “We Were Nobody, We Were Nothing: North/South Soundings of Modernity and Memories of Underdevelopment” in Media & Glocal Change. Rethinking Communication for Development. Ed. O. Hemer & T. Tufte. Clasco, Buenos Aires, Brazil, Nordicom, Goteborg University. Sweden 2005
No Chinatown at Turbulence, 3rd Auckland Triennial, New Zealand, 2007
March 9–June 4, 2007
For the 2007 Auckland Triennial, Long March – Chinatown was brought to Auckland in a collaborative project with artist Kah Bee Chow and Daniel Malone entitled No Chinatown. The project took a public minded approach by utilizing public spaces not just as exhibitions sites, but also involving the contributions of many other individuals, communities and collectives as a vital part of the work. The metaphor of “Chinatown” was used to engage with the Triennial’s curatorial theme of Turbulence, and the subsequent dynamics of immigration, tourism and cultural diaspora raised in the process of globalization, with Chinatown serving not as an illustration for identity politics or post colonial discourse, rather, a metaphorical site to explore general notions of performed and constructed identity, as well as focusing on the local context of Auckland, a city, which has been deemed a “high-immigration” city.
No Chinatown provoked the ambivalent, at times ambiguous social atmosphere, between Auckland and its Chinatown(s). Should Auckland have a Chinatown? Does Auckland in fact already have Chinatown(s)? What indeed constitutes a Chinatown or any (self) determined cultural identification with place? No Chinatown will raise these questions and the discursive space for any number of simultaneous answers, sometimes contradictory, acting as a catalyst to precipitate the emotional state of Auckland; at times lamenting a lack, proposing an action, at others giving voice to confusion or resisting an over-determination. It engaged in the Triennial’s broad discourse around multiculturalism as well as the unique context of Aotearoa New Zealand’s bi-cultural geo-politic and the notion of Tangata Whenua (People of the Land).
Within the Triennial space, No Chinatown took place in an array of art venues offered by the triennial. This included the Gus Fischer Gallery (Center of New Zealand Art Research and Discovery, University of Auckland), the St Paul Street Gallery (Auckland University of Technology) and Artspace. The display at each venue was both individual and linked, building momentum and resonance with a larger space of transitory events and activities outside and between the galleries during the course of the Triennial. Of particular interest was the Auckland City Council’s facilitated Lantern Festival in Albert Park on the triennial’s opening weekend and the involvement of local students in the architecture competition and a public survey organized through the Long March’s involvement in the Elam School of Fine Arts Artists Residency program.
Like other Long March Projects, No Chinatown was a process, an event, and a performance brought forth from grounded research which examines the relationship between theory and practice.
Installation views at Gus Fisher Gallery, Center of New Zealand Art Research and Discovery
Installation views at Artspace
Lantern Festival in Albert Park
The Long March Project – P.R. China
Daniel Malone – New Zealand
Kah Bee Chow – New Zealand / Malaysia
Continuing with the movement and journey-based research and display method first introduced in “Long March—A Walking Visual Display” (2003), “Long March Project—Chinatown” was divided into three stages, held respectively in Yokohama (2005), San Francisco (2005) and Oakland (2007). Marching across varied geographies and countries, through disparate histories and cultures, “Chinatown” was an ambitious project fueled by an urge to help the Chinese immigrants write back to their respective local context.