Wang Jianwei

Born: 1958, Sichuan Province, China
Graduated: 1987, M.A., Department of Oil Painting, China National Academy of Fine Arts, Hangzhou, China
Current: Independent artist, Beijing, China

Solo Exhibitions:
1993-94 Circulation: Sowing and Harvesting Wenjiang County, Sichuan Province, China
1993 Incident - Process . State Hong Kong Arts Centre, Hong Kong
1992 Exhibition by Wang Jianwei Hong Kong Arts Centre, Hong Kong
1991 Wang Jianwei's Solo Exhibition Cultural Palace of China's Ethnic Minorities, Beijing, China

Group Exhibitions:
2001 Translated Acts, Haus Der Kulturen Der Welt, Berlin, Germany
The State Of Things, Centre Kunst-Werke, Berlin, Germany
My home is Yours, Tokyo Opera City Art Gallery, Tokyo, Japan
Compound Eyes, Lasalle Sia College Of The Arts, Singapore
Living In Time, Nationalgalerie im Hamburger Bahnhof, Berlin, Germany
2000 Festival International De Programmes Audiovisuels, Biarritz, France
Kunsten Festival Desarts, Brussel, Belgium
Brighton Festival, Brighton, UK
World Wide Video Festival, Amsterdam, Holland
Shanghai Biennale 2000, Shanghai Art Museum, China
My Home is Yours, Rodin Gallery, Seoul, Korea
1999 Fast>>Forward: New Chinese Video Art , Contemporary Art Centre, Macao
Cities on the Move, Lousiana Museum of Modern Art, Humlebaek, Denmark
Melbourne International Biennial 1999, Melbourne, Australia
Yamagata International Documentary Film Festival'99, Yamagata, Japan
Beijing-London, ICA, London, Uk
1998 Cities on the Move Secession, Vienna, Austria
Museum of Contemporary Art, Bordeaux, France
Journey to the East '98: A Cultural Exchange Program Art Centre of Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, Hong Kong
1997 The First Academic Exhibition of Chinese Contemporary Art China National Gallery, Beijing, China
Gallery of Capital Normal University, Beijing, China
Another Long March: Chinese Conceptual and Installation Art in the Nineties Breda, The Netherlands Documenta X Kassel, Germany
Journey to the East '97: A Cultural Exchange Program Art Centre of Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, Hong Kong
In and Out - Contemporary Chinese Art of Mainland and Diaspora Dr. Earl Lu Gallery, Lasalle-sia College of the Arts, Singapore The Art Museum of the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, Melbourne, Australia
The Art Museum of Sydney University, Sydney, Australia
Yamagata International Documentary Film Festival '97 Yamagata, Japan
China's New Art, Post-1989 San Jose Museum of Art, San Jose, USA
Chicago Cultural Center, Chicago, USA
1996 The Second Asia-Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art Brisbane, Australia
China's New Art, Post-1989 University of Oregon Museum of Art, Portland, USA
1995 1995 Kwang-ju Biennial - "InfoArt" City Museum, Kwang-ju City, South Korea
New Asian Art Show: An Exhibition of Works of Artists from China, South Korea and Japan Kilin Plaza, Osaka, Japan
The Japan Foundation Forum, Tokyo, Japan
1994 '94 Beijing International COM-ART: China, Korea and Japan Gallery of Capital Normal University, Beijing, China
China's New Art, Post-1989 Marlborough Fine Art Ltd., London, England
Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney, Australia
1993 Mao Goes Pop Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney, Australia
China's New Art, Post-1989 Hong Kong Arts Centre, Hong Kong
1990 Third Euro-Asian Art Exhibition Ankara, Turkey
1988 Artists of Beijing Painting Institute China Art Gallery, Beijing, China
Oil Paintings: First Cross-Straits Exhibition China Art Gallery, Beijing, China
Second Oil Painting Exhibition of the International Art Palace China Art Gallery, Beijing, China
1987 Beyond the Open Door Asia Pacific Museum, Pasadena, USA
First Chinese Oil Painting Exhibition Shanghai Exhibition Centre, Shanghai, China
Tour Exhibition of Chinese Oil Paintings Japan
1984 Sixth National Art Exhibition Golden Award Winner China Art Gallery, Beijing, China

"the screen"
multi-media theatre work
document photos

Dialogue with Wang Jian Wei

A simple story. A storyteller-drummer at the court of tyrannical emperor TsĄŻao TsĄŻao summons the public and openly insults their supreme leader. Furious, TsĄŻao TsĄŻao wants to kill the insolent man but is too cowardly to take charge of it himself. He sends the troubadour to one of his very quick-tempered subordinates and the outcome is as expected: when the drummer criticises the irascible courtier he is sent to be executed. Ceremony, Wang JianweiĄŻs new theatrical creation, has been inspired by Drum Rolls Criticising TsĄŻao. Not without reason.

What is it that initiates a process of creation in you?

I like exploring the flaws in knowledge we have acquired: what they evade, the enigmas of history. I like questioning what we lose sight of in their many interpretations. I like exploring the ĄŽintermediate zonesĄŻ. How different interpretations, perceptions and forms of knowledge can relate to one other, how they intersect and overlap, and how new realms of potential emerge which have so far been ignored.

To do this you get your inspiration from texts that already exist. How do you choose them?

I work with plays and fragments of literature. Both Ping Feng (performed at the KunstenFESTIVALdesArts 2000, ed.) and Ceremony come from known gems of Chinese art and literature. Ping Feng was inspired by a scroll of silk painted more than 1,000 years ago by a painter at the imperial court, Gu Hongzhong. He had been appointed by the emperor to spy on a high-ranking civil servant he was suspicious of and to report on him. Gu Hongzhong did this by painting what he had observed. With time the painting Han Xizai gives a Banquet has become one of the undisputed masterpieces in the history of Chinese painting, and today has pride of place in the Museum of the Forbidden City. Ceremony was also inspired by the famous public accusation Drum Rolls Criticising TsĄŻao. IĄŻm not interested in reproducing a story from history or bringing a new aesthetic experience to the stage. I want to ĄŽreadĄŻ history and understand the manner and details of how the different interpretations of it influence our experiences of life and our attitude towards it, our individual and collective consciousness.

Who was TsĄŻao?

TsĄŻao TsĄŻao, (155-220 A.D.) is a particularly significant figure in the history of China. Under the Han dynasty, one of the most turbulent periods in Chinese history, several nobles were fighting for power and had sown division in the country. TsĄŻao TsĄŻao succeeded in dominating and unifying the provinces in the north. To do this he abused his position as prime minister whilst feigning respect for the emperor who was nothing more than a puppet. When TsĄŻao TsĄŻao died, his son followed in his footsteps and took over the imperial throne. Already at that time Chinese opinion was criticising his character and the way he acted, taking a swipe at him as an example of the ancient proverb: Ą°He who usurps a title will never keep his word.Ąą

Drum Rolls Criticising TsĄŻao seizes on TsĄŻao TsĄŻao as a classic example of a treacherous courtier. The story is based on three different literary texts about the same subject, spread out over 1,000 years: The History of Han, Romance of Three Kingdoms and a traditional text entitled Kuang Gu Shi Yu Yang San Nong. The writers and styles are very varied ¨C the first text is from the annals of a court chronicler, the second text is a story passed down orally from generation to generation and the third is a traditional play. So there are three interpretations.

Where does the title Ceremony come from?

The title of Ceremony has a double meaning. On the one hand all three literary sources IĄŻve used mention a place where people gathered together: the ceremony of the drum. This unusual place suggests in advance that weĄŻll be dealing with a character out of the ordinary. On the other hand the story has a ceremonial nature. It is based on historic texts covering over one thousand years of history. During this period the sustained repetition of this story has resulted in a consolidation of an uncontestable historical image. Serving as a norm, this story became embedded in the collective memory. These two types of ceremony merge together and so describe an irrefutable ĄŽhistorical eventĄŻ.

Why have you chosen theatre? In your opinion, what role ideally should theatre have in contemporary society?

Theatre enables me to state the issue, to express myself directly and in the flesh.
In my view thatĄŻs what theatre should be: a way of expressing oneself, expressing different points of view against the general and intellectual background of today. And theatre should take its relationship with contemporary society seriously and firmly establish it at the same time.

Does Ceremony take a stand concerning the society you live in?

Like Ping Feng, this play asks questions and challenges things. It is not simply a reflection of reality, any more than it is a symbolic or suggestive evocation of it. Ceremony reflects the way IĄŻm thinking at the moment, starting from the underlying relationships and intermediate zones IĄŻve already mentioned. When we examine History from a ĄŽrelationalĄŻ point of view, it is something quite different from a succession of past events with no link between them. It becomes a recording of the relationship between events, providing a way of understanding and interpreting them.

Ceremony has been inspired by three literary texts and their process of creation. It uses an individual story to analyse an historic event. Each takes part in the ceremony, as an orator and as an actor. The stage is transformed into a place where present and past blend, allowing the audience to play a role reinforcing this link between the drama and history.

What kind of relationship do you want there to be with the audience?

One of dialogue: being able to ask each other questions.

Will an audience in the West have enough knowledge to appreciate the in-depth analysis your plays offer?

I donĄŻt think the audience requires a special education (in Chinese language or in politics) to understand the play. ItĄŻs more about your own way of reading things, your own interpretation. I think that through the dialogues, as through acting the questions and answers taking place on stage, I can convey to the audience all the things ĄŽat stakeĄŻ in this play.

Do circumstances in China influence the way you work?

The technological equipment in the venues where I have to work is definitely not suitable for multimedia performances. I also encounter quite a few financial stumbling blocks along the way. ItĄŻs not always easy to have to constantly change venue and convey my ideas to the actors despite it. At the moment my rehearsals are taking place in a meeting room about 40 metres square. I have to remind myself and the actors all the time what the venue weĄŻll be performing in will be like. ItĄŻs a very interesting experience.

What do you never want to see on stage?

A fixed framework, a predictable structure, lack of freedom Ą­

And what attracts you?

Neither black nor white, but grey. I want to experience comprehension and incomprehension at the same time, a balance between doubt and conviction, being pulled by two extremes.

How do you see the world?

We seem to be subjected to two forces in the world: the first is difficult to predict, a natural force; the other is best described as an attempt to impose a change on the world through control. I can only oscillate between the two: I canĄŻt submit myself passively to a general and imposed plan, but I feel powerless in the face of forces coming from I donĄŻt know where and that control me. I can only understand the world from a micro point of view.

So from the outset we have to force ourselves to create a visual experience in order to unify the space weĄŻre actually in and the fictitious space where we will perform or want to perform.

What do you hate most in human nature?

Power and indifference.

What do you like most in it?

Heading off in search of new realms of possibility Ą­


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