Exploring The Contemporary Art Scene of China

The new renaissance; is it China?

Last Monday Santa Monica College hosted a documentary about the contemporary art scene as it stands in China. The film was the brain child of Robert Adanto who wrote, directed, and produced it himself. "I'm showing it all over the world, and traveling with it and talking about it," said Adanto as he took questions after the showing.

Adanto gave the remaining audience the background of his project and said that he began working on it in July 2005, and did not originally have intentions of documenting the art scene specifically. However once he made his decision he began in depth research, and educated himself so much so that he became affiliated with both the Getty Center, and MOCA.

The film featured artists such as Zhang O, and had heavy commentary by experts such as Gordon Chang. It did well to explore not only the cutting edge of Chinese art, but also how it got that way. It documents the effects of the Cultural Revolution, and the new found ambiguity of what is appropriate and inappropriate after the death of Mao Zedong, the late leader of the Peoples Republic of China. It also explores the psyche of young artists who have grown up in a rapidly modernizing world where traditions have been overstepped, and the people have been left with little or no system of belief.

"We don't really know China at all," said Adanto when describing the perceptions that westerners typically have of Chinese art. In the film he documented the problem in that much of the art that is created in China relates to the traditions of China, and is therefore misinterpreted by westerners.

In the last thirty years, China has become explosive with new artists, and their creations. Adanto said "people are being expressive again," as he described the changes that have happened in the years since Zedong's death in 1976.

It is because of this that the documentary is forced to focus on the mediums of film and photography. Adanto acknowledged the notion that with how fast China is changing, these mediums are the only ways to accurately capture the mood.

Overall the film does very little to force the viewer into a corner of thought, rather it explains the situation in a way that allows a person to make up their own mind about what is going on in China, and what the art means to them. "For me it was a much deeper story," explained Adanto "I didn't want to make an academic art film where someone from the west explains... I like to make a film, I don't want to me Michael Moore, and tell you."

When asked about the conditions under which the documentary was made, Adanto conceded that he had to research artists beforehand since as he said "I was in China less that a month, I knew my time was going to be limited." In addition he used the advances in modern networking to locate the people he wanted to work with; Adanto stated that "I found all of these artists through e-mail and the internet."

Adanto also spoke about his future plans and what areas of the world he wants to explore next. "The parallel (to China) is Iran, you've got artists that are starting to work" he said.

Adanto elaborated on art as a whole in his final moments of speaking saying that this could literally be a time of a new renaissance, and that this is "when great art is made... when the world is crazy.