Poster of Under the Rule

Avant-garde art once ensured such a utopian fantasy that through a kind of critical function it is able to consciously combine art with various aspirations about the revolution of politics, culture, or spirit. Recalling his early experience of avant-garde art, Shi Yong said, “Back in our time, if you don’t combine your work with the big themes and don’t criticize, you would receive no attention. I admire the artists nowadays because they can do whatever they like.” But if art activities have been severed from the liberation plan and got associated with control, does it still have a critical function? Avant-garde revisionists say no, but Shi Yong thinks “yes”. The former abandons all the radical positions for the sake of art, while the latter carries a sense of fatalism.

Shi Yong takes “combined words of violence and modification” (Dismantling, cutting, welding, shaping, coloring skin etc.) as movement and posture to dissolve objects as they are and uses the mandatory intervention and absolute control at the scene to reconstruct a way of expressing itself: a form of power aesthetics that implies dimensions of reality! All works are forcefully arranged to present at the height of non-adult viewpoint, thus highlighting the fact that the individual is just a passive existence in the context of reality. There is a kind of isomorphism between the artist and the dissolved objects: the almost abstract pieces of objects placed at the exhibition site are a metaphor for the existence of the identity of “artist Shi Yong”.

While the artists enjoy the freedom of expression, they should demonstrate how unreal this freedom is: it is a privilege seized at the cost of others’ freedom. Beuys or most of the avant-garde artists might never have realized that the public has no obligation to believe in the myths they built around themselves and their works. Shi Yong has been unapologetically negative about this (mythological nature) from the beginning, and has psychoanalytically made the most brutal deconstruction to it. The best artists are in a state of conscious mental dissociation: they are not mad about being in a storm, and they are not bogged down by reflexive criticism. Welcome to the world of contemporary artist Shi Yong. Although in his heart he is still an avant-garde, true persistence is always brought on by changes. Those who have never changed do not have the right to say they can persist.

ShanghART Gallery is honored to present Shi Yong’s new solo exhibition “Under the Rule” on the second floor of the Westbund space on 27th September. This exhibition continues the concept of the artist’s solo exhibition held in 2015. Shi Yong takes “the combined words of violence and modification” (such as dismantling, cutting, welding, shaping and colouring skin etc.) as movement and posture to dissolve the original physical appearance of objects. His mandatory intervention and absolute control at the scene reconstructs the grammar: a form of aesthetic power that implies realistic dimensions. Here, the fractured objects as a metaphor of a body and the scene as a controlled container are important and necessary to Shi Yong. They are the translation of another kind of reality as well as the unrecoverable evidence that the body is lost and abstracted. The pieces of objects almost in abstract form placed on-site are a metaphor to illustrate the existence of the identity of the “artist Shi Yong”. The artist’s 11 latest pieces of work will be shown in China for first time with the opportunity. The exhibition will open to the public from 28th September to 30th October, 2017.

About the artist

Shi Yong was born in Shanghai in 1963. He graduated from the Fine Art Department of the Shanghai Light Industrial School in 1984. Now lives and works in Shanghai. Shi Yong is one of representative figures of contemporary artists whose works were initially involved with installation and video. Since 1993, his works have been widely exhibited both in China and abroad. His artworks associate with a wide range of mediums – including installation, performance, photography and video. Shi Yong’s earliest artistic practice focused on revealing the ambiguity of reality and the inherent tension in the “system”. At the end of the 1990s, Shi began to concentrate on the idea of Shanghai’s contemporary transformation under the myth of China’s opening up, which was continually led to a macroscopic level on globalisation and consumption etc. Since the work Sorry, There will be no Documenta in 2007 which he made in 2006, his skepticism finally lied in the art world where the artist was deeply immersed. And thinking how to transmit a more rational attitude was emerged. Shi Yong’s 2015 solo exhibition, Let All Potential Be Internally Resolved Using Beautiful Form, continued his art practice, expressed his future intention under the surface of “abstract” and unfolded the reflection as well as practice upon “control”.

About the curator

Sun Qidong now works as a curator for Shanghai Minsheng Art Museum. He received an Aesthetics Master’s Degree from l’Université de Strasbourg. Sun is involved in multiple activities in which he questions the relation between art and the economy. His researches mainly focus on the creation of contemporary art and curatorial practice. As a curator, he has recently organised Sonsara: Céleste Boursier-Mougenot, Secret Garden: Nathalie Djurberg& Hans Berg, Do you wanna play with me and Non-figurative. In addition, he has participated in initiating the art project Invisible Elephant, as well as in publishing theoretical journal .

About the exhibition

Dates: Sep 27, 2017 – Oct 30, 2017

Venue: ShanghART Gallery

Courtesy of the artist and ShanghART Gallery, for further information please visit

Related posts: