Mission & Purpose
The Beijing Photo Biennial has received wide attention and recognition in the art industry and related fields following the success of its first two exhibitions (“Aura and Post-Aura”, 2013 & “Unfamiliar Asia”, 2015). As one of CAFA Art Museum’s signature events, the project aims to examine the ways photography—a unique form of interference and application as well as a constantly self-renewing medium—continues to engage in contemporary cultural narratives and the construction of new artistic orders and structures. Drawing on Western classics and cutting-edge photographic resources around the world while keeping an eye on the future, we hope to discover and support talented young photographers in China and encourage them to explore the language of photography, expand their views, and contribute to the development of photography in China by bringing the influence and prominence of Chinese contemporary photography to another level in the global art industry.
This year’s biennial is designed as part of the Special Exhibitions section of the 1st Beizhen International Photography Festival and will be held simultaneously at the Culture Industry Center of Beizhen and the CAFA Art Museum. The exhibition will showcase close to 1000 works of some 80 artists from around the world, which will be accompanied by a series of seminars, forums, talks and public education events. The CAFA Art Museum will continue to bring advanced modes of thinking and organization from contemporary culture and the art industry into the field of photography and image art in China, with the aim to enhance its cultural depth, academic scope, quality of communication and globalized vision. By presenting photography as a universal, contemporary, practical and everyday medium of visual expression, we hope to reveal the serious and in-depth reflections of contemporary photographers and artists on subjects such as history, social reality, art and the self, and to inspire more people to discover, explore and reexamine this unique medium. At the same time, we also want to explore a new kind of curatorial system that puts emphasis on the social and public roles of university art museums by collaborating with the local government in order to contribute to the cultural development of relatively less advanced regions, as well as to establish new labels and platforms for art and cultural exchanges of a new era.
On the Theme of the Exhibition
As a new form of technology, medium and application, photography has been associated with issues concerning the public vs. the private since the day it was invented. From the inherently private practices of shooting and viewing in public spaces in the early days of photography to the democratization of image in today’s world of camera phones, mobile web and social media, and to the constantly evolving visualization of data in contemporary art, photography has become an important medium that extends to, interferes with, participates in and helps construct public and private lives to an ever-increasing degree. As a result, the public and private elements of photography have continued to integrate and spread from constant clashes and confrontations between real and fictional spaces; they are also changing our modes of expression, relationships and behavioral patterns while filling up our public and private living spaces. Eventually, with the large-scale interference of photography, public and private spaces are reconstructed, so are the boundaries between the individual and the community and the definitions of the self and others. During these metamorphoses, photography becomes intertwined and resonates in new ways with a variety of important factors such as history, reality, religion, philosophy, civilization, war, science & technology, politics and human emotions. As a medium or a bridge between different worlds, its performance unfolds in both the public sphere and the private sphere. In a spatial-temporal context where the public and the private are merged, the modes of organization and thinking are extremely complex, and the atmosphere is characterized by a sense of ritualism and absurdity, how can we embark on an adventure of the mind? What kind of world is this? How is it related to us? In an intellectual field and visual drama that could be defined as Utopia, Dystopia, Heterotopia or Protopia, the way we tackle the relationship between the public and the private and its expressions via photography will become the common goal we build on a relatively broader, higher and more distant point of view, and it will also become our curatorial starting point for the exhibition. Therefore, the exhibition will revolve around the complex coexistence of the social, public and private characteristics of photography—a broad, multidisciplinary field—and explore its role and significance in the tension between the public and the private.
It’s worth pointing out that, by drawing on past experience and learning from the challenges we faced during the first two biennials, the curatorial team will design the exhibition with an experimental and daring method of organization and thinking based on the theme “Confusing Public and Private”, and hope to design a completely different show this year.
General Consultant & Curatorial Directors
Fan Di’an is the former curator of the National Art Museum of China. He currently serves as president of the Central Academy of Fine Arts, vice president of the Chinese Artists Association, vice president of the Literary & Art Critics’ Association of China, deputy director of the National Committee of Art Education, and is also member of the Central Institute of Culture and History and the National Committee of CPPCC. Fan has dedicated himself to the research of 20th century Chinese art, contemporary art criticism, curatorial planning and art museology for the past 20 years. He has published more than a million characters of writing on art and planned hundreds of exhibitions that reflect the zeitgeist and the development of fine arts in China. He has also organized numerous international art exchange programs and collaborated with well-known museums, art institutions and academies worldwide, promoting communications between different countries and increasing the influence of Chinese art in the global art industry. An artist himself, Fan’s paintings have been showcased at numerous exhibitions.
Wang Huangsheng (PhD) is the former director of the CAFA Art Museum and the Guangdong Museum of Art. He currently works as a professor and doctoral advisor at the Central Academy of Fine Art and sits on the academy’s academic committee. He is also the deputy director of the Chinese Artists Association’s curatorial committee, a recipient of the State Department Grant, and a visiting professor at Heidelberg University (Germany). Wang was awarded the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French government and the Knight’s Medal by the President of Italy. He was involved in the founding of many major exhibitions in China such as the Guangzhou Triennial, the Guangzhou Photo Biennial, the CAFAM Biennial, the Beijing Photo Biennial and “Humanism in China: A Contemporary Record of Photography”.
Zhang Zikang is the current director of the CAFA Art Museum and a professor at the academy. He once served as deputy director of the Chinese Art Museum, deputy director of the Cultural Bureau of Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (as part of the aid program for the region), director of the Xinjiang Gallery, president of the Culture and Art Publishing House, deputy director of the School of Contemporary Chinese Art at the Chinese National Academy of Arts, director of the Art Information Research Center of the Chinese National Academy of Painting, director of Beijing’s Today Art Museum and editor-in-chief of Oriental Art and Today Art Magazine. He is also the deputy director of the Art Museum Committee of the Chinese Museum Association and the deputy director of the Experimental Art Committee of the Chinese Artists Association.
Hans De Wolf (Belgium)
Hans de Wolf is an art historian who focuses mainly on modern and contemporary art, philosophy and aesthetics. He studied at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB) and the Columbia University in New York. In 2002 he obtained his PhD degree for a voluminous and fundamentally innovative interpretation of one of Marcel Duchamp’s major works, La mariée mise à nu par ses célibataires même.
Since 1998 de Wolf has been involved in the development and realization of various exhibition projects in the Neue Nationalgalerie im Hamburger Bahnhof, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Berlin. At the Kunsthochschule Berlin-Weissensee he has been giving theoretical art seminars since 2002. In 2004 Hans Maria de Wolf was appointed Professor of Art History and Aesthetics at VUB. That same year he was invited as a senior consultant by the Palais des Beaux-Arts in particular to develop further relations with Germany. In 2005 he was mandated the creation of an institute (The Platform, known as the “Brussels model”) in order to create an institutional environment for the implementation of artistic research. He then launched a whole series of prestigious research projects involving some of Belgium’s most famous artists. Since 2009 this global context of intermediation between the worlds of art and academia took on a whole new dimension when he was mandated to create a first project for Shanghai 2010. Several other projects would follow, all conceived according to the same philosophy, bringing some of Belgium’s best artists to cities such as Beijing, Hangzhou, Seoul, Gwangju, Chengdu and Beijing again. In 2015 he curated the first exhibition on Chinese art in Brussels: Chinese Utopias Revisited: The Elephants;In 2016, he brough Xu Bing’s artwork to Milan, organised exhibition “Xu Bing: World of Words, Goods of Gods”.
Cai Meng (PhD) is the assistant director of CAFA Art Museum’s research department. He is also the associate editor of Universities & Art Museums and works as an assistant researcher and curator. Before joining the CAFA, he worked at the Chinese National Academy of Arts and the Guangdong Museum of Art. His MFA and DFA theses both focus on contemporary Chinese photography after 1976; they explore the internal logic of the evolution of photography in contemporary China and the corresponding artistic trends and outside cultures based on the methods and perspectives of art history research. Cai was involved in the planning of various exhibitions such as the 3rd Guangzhou Photo Biennial, “Spectacle and Gaze”, “100 Vintage Prints”, “CAFAM Future”, the Beijing Photo Biennial, “Contemporary Photography in China 2009-2014” and “Roger Ballen: Theatre of the Absurd”. In 2013, he established the Linci Photography Research Grant, the first grant for scholars of photography theories in China, and serves as its academic chair.
Ângela Ferreira (Portugal)
ÂNGELA FERREIRA a.k.a BERLINDE is an Portuguese artist and curator, with PHD studies in Photography at Universidade do Minho, Portugal and Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. She have a master in Curatorial studies and Photography at Utrecht School of Arts-Holland. Ângela Ferreira is Co-Founder of the Portuguese PhotoFestival Encontros da Imagem, an International Photography Festival from Braga-Portugal and has contributed with exhibitions and articles to diverse magazines, interviewed international artists, and introduced their work to the European and American latin scene, based on her professional background, and expertise, in the field of art photography. She has commissioned contemporary photography throughout Europe and latin American Countries, particularly in Brazil. Ângela has published Photography and Texts about the Portuguese India and the Painted Portraits of the Brazilian Indigenous communities. She is an Adjunct teacher at Superior School of Media Arts and Design of the Polytechnic Institute of Porto, Portugal and works in the field of research of the hybrid forms of photography. Currently she is the Artistic Advisor of Photographic Museum of Fortaleza, Brazil and the Director of the Photography Program at the Secretary State of Culture of Ceará, Fortaleza, Brazil.
He Yining is an independent writer and curator based in Tianjin, China. She graduated from the London College of Communication and has been writing for photography, art and humanities-related publications while working as a curator, editor and translator since 2010. She is working closely with museums, galleries, and other institutions in China and across Europe. Her current researches are mostly carried out in the framework of art history, cultural studies and other interdisciplinary studies, including ” cultural cognition and photographic representation: British photography after 1960″, comparative study of Chinese and British landscape photography, and contemporary photography narratives etc.
 Kevin Kelly once pointed out that real Dystopias have nothing to do with the way they are portrayed in the film Mad Max, but resemble the former Soviet Union: they are not worlds of chaos, but worlds run by suffocating bureaucratic institutions…Nevertheless, neither Dystopias nor Utopias are our real destiny: what we are actually heading toward is a “Protopia”. To be more precise, we have already arrived in a Protopia. A Protopia is not a destination, but a state of transformation—a process. In the Protopian mode, today will always be better than tomorrow, even just a little. It is a gradual process of improvement and a gentle form of evolution.
About the exhibition
Dates: 2018-09-28 – 2018-11-28
Organizer(s): CAFA Art Museum
Co-Organizer: The Curatorial Committee of the 2018 Beizhen International Photography Festival
General Consultant: Fan Di’an
Curatorial Directors: Wang Huangsheng, Zhang Zikang
Curatorial Team: Hans de Wolf, Cai Meng, Ângela Ferreira, He Yining
Courtesy of CAFA Art Museum.