Friday, September 12, 2008

Taipei vs. Shanghai

Liu Wei's video, June 4th, 2005, is the final work in the Taipei biennial. In it, the artist goes around Tiananmen Square on the anniversary of the 1989 massacre and challenges people to mention the event. No one will. The work underscores the vast difference between art exhibitions in Taiwan and mainland China since this piece and most of the other works in this biennial would never be included in the Shanghai biennial. Shanghai has become a weak bland affair, in part due to the interference of ministry of culture officials in the curation of the show. It never takes on tough political issues--though this year's did include a video on coal miners by Yang Shaobin--and it never ever critiques the market. Taiwan, whether intentionally or not, embodied the virtues of democracy, in comparison. Here, the curators were free to take on a challenging theme and choose works that clearly followed their vision. When asked if he intentionally put together the show as a critique of mainland China, Vasif Kortun said, no. But, he also added, "We all know the problem with China but we dare not speak about it because the market is so big."

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