Preview: Ashmolean LiveFriday ‘China Night’

ⓒ Ashmolean
ⓒ Ashmolean

On Friday 26th April, the Ashmolean’s late night ‘LiveFriday‘ returns with a celebration of Chinese culture. In association with the University of Oxford China Centre and centred around the major exhibition by Chinese artist Xu Bing currently running at the museum, the night will include talks, live music and other performances, interactive workshops, and a chance to take part in traditional Chinese games and ceremonies. The evening is not only designed to solidify the link between the museum, the University, and the community which surrounds it, but is also intended to open the public eye to different and exciting cultures, both new and old.

The night will be curated by Professor of Modern Chinese History and Politics at St Cross College, Rana Mitter who has been awarded the title Times Higher Education Supplement Young Academic Author of the Year 2005 for his book A Bitter Revolution: China’s struggle with the Modern World, a topic this ‘LiveFriday’ aims to address. Leading experts on Chinese culture, Philip Dodd and Karl Gerth, will conduct talks on the impacts of the new consumer culture on Chinese lifestyles, and the Chinese Art World in the digital age. Whilst China may not currently be developing as rapidly as predicted, its economy and culture have gone through substantial change in the last couple of years, and its culture in particular is something of great academic and social interest. These talks promise an insight into what the art and culture of China seem to be moving towards.

Various examples of contemporary Chinese culture will be on show, with live music from The Jasmine Moon Duo and Sweet n Sour Swing playing throughout the night, and a performance based on Edvard Munch’s ‘The Scream’ by artists Cai Yuan and Jian Jun Xi. First performed as a public intervention outside the Tate Modern on Millennium Bridge in 2012 the performance taps into the meanings behind the painting and serves as “an expression of human existence – of reality, spirituality and humanity”. Their unique interpretation of the painting is something not to be missed.

The night also promises a chance to wander round after hours and experience not only all the collections and major exhibits currently shown in the Ashmolean, but also the new exhibition by acclaimed Chinese artist Xu Bing. The current Vice President of the Central Academy of Fine Arts and recipient of the MacArthur ‘Genius’ Grant (a grant of $500,000) in 1999, Xu Bing has quickly become one of China’s most well known and successful artists. He aims to address complex ideas about art and culture in his work but in an accessible, distinctively playful way; his exhibition displayed in the Ashmolean ‘Landscape Landscript’ is no exception to this.

Using a range of media, Xu Bing uses both the forms and the meanings of Chinese characters to build landscapes on canvases creating unique language based artworks. Language – its uses, the misunderstandings, its dialogues, and its forms all contribute to Xu Bing’s pieces, and as a Chinese artist Xu Bing focuses on the pictorial quality of the Chinese script which he sees as central to Chinese culture. During the night, Weimin He, one of the University of Oxford’s artists in residence, will be channelling Xu Bing and teaching participants how to create their own language based artwork with the basic strokes of the ancient Chinese script.

This ‘LiveFriday’ promises informative talks, exciting and engaging performances, rooftop drinks and dim sum, a special combination of modern ideas in traditional artwork, and overall a comprehensive insight into art and culture in China. A very special night out in a very special museum.

E. Hill

The Ashmolean’s ‘China Night’ will run on Friday 26th April, starting at 7pm. For more information please visit the LiveFriday page on their website.

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