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Art of transformation

By Cheng Yuezhu| China Daily| Updated : Aug 9, 2022


The exhibition is held at the Rice Barn, a former granary that has been turned into an exhibition hall. [Photo provided to China Daily]

When commissioned to create an on-the-spot artwork in the water town of Wuzhen in Zhejiang province, artist Ma Xinyu sought inspiration from the locals, asking them their thoughts about being in the here and now.

He recorded their replies on handheld fans with LED displays. When he asked other people about their thoughts, he showed them some of the earlier replies. Their thoughts, in turn, were shown to others. "They could leave their own thoughts about being here at this particular moment, which were also recorded and then presented to other participants," he says.

He wants to exchange and transmit people's imagination, within the scope of Wuzhen's history and space, and to achieve an interaction between people and their location.

The dozens of fans are displayed on open shelves at the Walking the Environment exhibition, so when the visitors walk into the space, they can feel the breeze and immerse themselves in the thoughts and feelings of others.

Cohosted by Cultural Wuzhen Co Ltd and the School of Sculpture and Public Art from the China Academy of Art, the exhibition opened on July 22 and runs until Dec 31, displaying 65 works from 53 artists, all of whom are students or alumni from the school.


The Walking the Environment exhibition opened in Wuzhen, Zhejiang province, on July 22 and runs until Dec 31, displaying a diversity of artworks. [Photo provided to China Daily]

Curator Jin Yanan says that the exhibition stresses the dynamics of the artists, the viewers and the venue. He explains that in the exhibition's title, walking is a metaphor for the deep reflection of the artists and, by taking a walk through the venue, visitors can relive the artists' creative processes.

The exhibition takes place in Wuzhen's Rice Barn, a granary from the 1960s that was revamped and turned into an exhibition hall in 2017. It is among many of the town's old buildings that have been renovated into performing arts or exhibition venues.

"Hosting the exhibition at the Rice Barn has its special implications. First, we hope that art is a kind of spiritual nourishment. Second, the barn was used to store things essential to us, so it's closely related to daily life. The purpose of this art project is to reintegrate art with our everyday lives," Jin says.


The Walking the Environment exhibition opened in Wuzhen, Zhejiang province, on July 22 and runs until Dec 31, displaying a diversity of artworks.[Photo provided to China Daily]

He says that he hopes more art events and projects will be held in Wuzhen, so that the town will not only be a tourist destination, but also a hub to help boost public aesthetic literacy and create a vibrant and inclusive environment.

The exhibition also marks the establishment of CAA Armory Wuzhen, a long-term project of the exhibition's two founders, that incorporates culture, art and tourism.

Zheng Jing, a professor from CAA and planner of the Walking the Environment project, says that the collaboration aims to explore how academic institutions could localize their research findings, and how to serve society on a wider scope through the tourism industry.


The Walking the Environment exhibition opened in Wuzhen, Zhejiang province, on July 22 and runs until Dec 31, displaying a diversity of artworks.[Photo provided to China Daily]

"CAA focuses on research, creation and teaching. How to lead public understanding of aesthetics is a subject that we need to spend our lives thinking about and working toward," Zheng says.

"Wuzhen serves as an ideal channel to communicate between education and the public. We get to reach an audience from diverse walks of life and even different parts of the country, and the tourists to Wuzhen will be able to feel the charm of art."

Apart from exhibitions that allow the visitors to appreciate art, the project aims to host more interactive events at the Rice Barn to enable visitors to participate in art, as well as for the artists and educators to effectively gather feedback from participants.


Ma Xinyu's work, Wind of Imagination Blows in the Reflections of Wuzhen Rivers. [Photo provided to China Daily]

The academy also plans to build a teaching base in the town, where field studies, art creation and workshops can be conducted, to support its education and benefit the general public.

"Wuzhen has taken the past 20 years to move beyond being a 'tourist town' and a 'holiday town' and has set the goal of becoming a 'cultural town' in its development and revitalization," says Chen Yu, general manager of Cultural Wuzhen.

"During the exhibition, we will also host other public education events including workshops, forums and lectures, so that residents and visitors of Wuzhen will feel the beauty of art, in order to promote public aesthetic literacy."

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