Modern Art in Chengdu
A few years ago, when I was an intern and student in Beijing. I really enjoyed visiting museums and galleries of Chinese contemporary art and at that time I was able to observe how the art scene in the capital changed since 2006.

Back in 2006, “Factory 798” was a relatively new art area. It is an old industrial area that was given to China in the cold war era by socialist East Germany (the DDR). Since 2006, the old factory buildings has been reused as a center for contemporary Chinese art. At that time, it was quite a challenge to get to the “Factory” as it was not well-known to most people in Beijing. However, this completely changed a few years later when it became popularized and exploited tourism in a quaint way which then persuaded many avant-garde artists to leave this area to yet another new art area referred to as 农村 “Nongcun”. In a nutshell, it became too well-known for controversial artists and too touristic for some of the serious Chinese artists.

I was quite excited to see what Chengdu offers to people interested in modern Chinese art. I initially thought the best thing to do was to visit the city’s “Museum of Contemporary Art” (MOCA), which is located in the “Tianfu Software Park“. Although MOCA is referred to as a museum it is rather an exhibition centre as they don’t have a permanent collection, but temporary exhibitions. When I visited MOCA this weekend it consisted of work by one single artist only, an English artist called Michael Pinsky. It was a pity, I couldn’t check out local Chinese art, but it was very interesting nonetheless.

InternChina - MOCA Chengdu
InternChina – MOCA Chengdu

Topics that the Michael Pinsky‘s exhibition covers are globalisation, westernisation, environmental degradation and climate change. Honestly, this was one of the most interesting exhibitions I have been to in a long time! One piece of art that baffled me the most, consisted of four light houses that were approximately three or four meters high.

InternChina - Light Signals showing my heartbeat. Michael Pinsky, MOCA Chengdu
InternChina – Light Signals showing my heartbeat. Michael Pinsky, MOCA Chengdu

The lights at the top of each tower were sending out light signals following no apparent rhythm or pattern. But after I read its description, I then knew that the towers recorded my very own heart beat and then sent it out in the form of light signals. So basically everyone in the museum found out something very personal to me and something that may be considered as sensitive information, you don’t really want random strangers to know. You may not agree, but I felt quite irritated – also due to the fact the recording had been done without my knowing nor my permission. Associations that came to my mind were data privacy and NSA spying, overly extroverted people on Facebook (constantly sending out personal issues to strangers), “Big Data” and “glass people” in the 21st century.

InternChina - Blossoms as Digital Pixels. Michael Pinsky in the Museum of Contemporary Art Chengdu
InternChina – Blossoms as Digital Pixels. Michael Pinsky,  MOCA Chengdu
InternChina - Michael Pinsky in the Museum of Contemporary Art Chengdu
InternChina – Michael Pinsky, MOCA Chengdu

Alas, it was a really great visit and I can recommend it to all people open to modern art. I hope I will be able to visit a Chinese exhibit dealing with Chinese issues next time. There actually are quite a few more art places to be checked out in Chengdu, such as the “Blue Roof Museum”.

How about you: interested in checking out the vibrant, different, multifaceted, contradicting, energetic, baffling art scene in China?

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