REFORMATION, 6 March—3 August 2014
Reforms are the trademark of modern China. Few nations have changed so much so fast, or been so traumatised in the process. In the 1890s, an emperor who ordered Western-style reforms was overthrown by his courtiers. In the mid 20th century, the Maoists reformed China by force, killing all who stood in their way. When that project failed, Deng Xiaoping launched a counter-reformation, easing the Party’s grip on people’s lives and “opening up” China to the world.
Artists revelled in the change and in the freedom to try new things. Contemporary art was alien to China, its idioms and vocabulary borrowed from the West. But its boundless possibilities fired their imaginations. With energy, wit and finesse, they set about taking contemporary art to the limit—and teaching it to speak Chinese.
Today China is home to a creative re-formation that is making waves around the world. It draws inspiration from classical calligraphy and the European masters, Taoism and the Internet, Shanghai street life and global business, kung fu and genetics. Some artists are reinventing traditional Chinese forms using video, plastic and robots. For others, the message is all that matters—their artistic language is a global one, with hardly a hint of ‘Chinese’.
REFORMATION explores the cutting edge of this vibrant scene through more than 50 works, including painting-sculptures, mechanical art, sensor-linked videos, and installations on an architectural scale. Most have never been shown in Australia, and many were created in the past year or two. Here under one roof are the best of China’s new contemporary artists: confident, audacious, commercially savvy, the boldest experimenters in what the head of China’s national art academy calls “the most experimental country in the world”.
White Rabbit is open Wednesday to Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. We close for the months of February and August to install new shows.