As part of the China China exhibition in Kiev, Ukraine, Sun Yuan and Peng Yu are showing their performance installation Seeing Is Not An Option, which explores the tension between collective thinking and individuality; social pressure and independence. The pair explored similar themes in their installation Teenager Teenager.
Themes around the concept of surrender of the individual to the group are being explored by eleven contemporary Chinese artists here in Kiev, including Ai Weiwei.
His 2009 work Rooted Upon consists of 32 pieces of tree trunk, and Fairytale, which features a collection of 535 black and white prints – explore the battle between the individual and the system.
Bjorn Geldhof, the curator of the exhibition said, “I think what we wanted to do is to collect different positions which show you in a complex three-dimensional way how individuality and collective is changing all the time and how our society is changing by that principle or by the balance of those two principles or notions.”
Ai Weiwei’s Forever Bicycle tells it’s own story about China’s urbanisation, rural migration and environmental hazards.
Bjorn Geldhof said: “After the cultural revolution, the goal was to industrialize China and these bicycles are in a way a symbol of this industrialization and the way they are stacked up. They are built like skyscrapers so everything is about building the new, building a new city, building a new economy but at the same time reducing everything to something similar, taking away the individuality.”
Sun Xun’s graffiti artwork “Undefine Revolution” establishes a tie between the histories of Ukraine and China. Both countries have suffered the consequences of totalitarian rulers.
Bjorn Geldhof commented: “They have a common history of how to deal with the collective, but the difference is and that is what makes it so interesting to hold the exhibition here in Ukraine, in Eastern Europe, the difference is that Ukraine has chosen a different way from China to solve this question of collective and individual rights.”
Just outside the gallery there is another installation: a massive limestone sculpture of a Chinese police officer, smashed on the pavement. It is the work of Zhao Zhao, one of China’s most provocative stars and a former police officer himself.
Zhao Zhao explained: “People usually make such big sculptures piece by piece and then assemble them. I was the first artist in China who did the opposite. I first made the whole assembled sculpture and then I shattered it in different parts, as you can see by yourself.”
The exhibition “China China” runs till 6th of October.