The artist's sensitivity and pondering of contemporary culture will lead him to constant experimentation and exploration in his creative concepts, methods and mediums. Among these things, the importance of medium goes without saying. Artistic mediums have continuously evolved in step with advances in technology. Video art, first born in the West in the mid-1960s, stands as a very representative and demonstrative case. Chinese video art began in the late 1980s, some thirty years after its emergence in the West, but it continues to develop, and is coming to match the rest of the world. This has particularly been the case in the 21st century, where cinema has grown ubiquitous, and has come to influence human cognition in ways both more profound and subtle than ever before. Video art has evolved into a comprehensive artistic approach that incorporates multiple cinematic techniques and installation environments around a core of moving image, and is today the primary creative medium for many artists.
Han Nefkens is a famous Dutch art collector and writer. He began building his collection (H+F Colletion) in 2000, and has worked selectively with art museums and other institutions to exhibit his collection. The collection currently consists of 469 items, including art, photography and fashion design. This includes 35 works of film and video works. Like Mr. Nefkens himself, his collection does not easily fall into any categorization. Perhaps, as a writer, video art is in keeping with his own linguistic narrative pursuits. As an individual, his greatest desire is to share and exchange art from different cultural backgrounds with audiences. Just as he stated in his essay, “They evoke their world not only by showing things but also by leaving things out, just as poets do. That way, we, the viewers, have a chance to continue imagining that other world.”
The Han Nefkens Foundation was established in Barcelona, Spain, in 2009, with the mission of “connecting people through art.” The foundation carries out this mission by conferring awards and scholarships, providing production financing for artist works, holding exhibitions, and sponsoring multidisciplinary residency programs. The Han Nefkens foundation has established a worldwide network of experts and scholars who nominate candidates and participants for programs devised to provide international developmental opportunities to outstanding emerging artists, designers and writers. The foundation collaborates with artists around the world, particularly those from non-Western countries, and supports the work of young, undiscovered artists to help them unleash their imagination and creative potential. Here at He Xiangning Art Museum, the foundation is presenting new video works recently entered into the H+F Colletion by Chinese artist Zhou Tao and Korean artist Sojung Jun. These fit perfectly with the mechanisms for creative support, collection, exhibition and audience interaction pursued by Han Nefkens and his foundation.
He Xiangning Art Museum has long focused on the environment for contemporary art in China and its progression, and worked to foster exchange and promotion of contemporary art between China and the rest of the world. It is my good fortune to work together with Han Nefkens and his foundation for In Search of Global Poetry: Videos from the Han Nefkens Collection. The exhibition presents twelve video works by artists of different cultural backgrounds and identities from around the world. These works directly and indirectly express the artists’ recognition, thinking and experimentation on the relationship between art and new media in an era of digital technology, and provide new vision and perceptions of the technological revolution for artists and audiences in China. The works in this exhibition are rooted in their specific regional cultures, while also providing a global cultural vision, allowing us to clearly appreciate and understand the ways in which these artists employ the visual language methods of video art to express their attitudes, views and transcendental poetic imaginations towards art. From this, not only can we see the progress of technology and the rise of new art, but we are also exposed to new realms and topics for traditional aesthetics and creative methods. For this, we are eternally grateful to Han Nefkens, his foundation, and curator Hilde Teerlinck, for their support and assistance.
In art, there is a mainstream, and there are margins. Within this, diverse voices are needed to facilitate coexistence and dialogue between different cultural spheres. Dialogue is predicated on difference, and difference inevitably demands the independence of each interlocutor, independence manifest through artistic attitudes and creative autonomy. Thus, as the margins constantly interject in and challenge the center, society becomes more than just a single voice, and comes to comprise diverse expressions, tolerating and embracing coexistence in difference, and complex movements within the system of art. Meanwhile, art is also virtual in essence. Art is more like a dream, one step removed from reality. This imaginary construct gives the viewer a non-concrete relationship. Art creates a relationship between artist, viewer and the virtual figures, fields or scenes in the artwork to seek out a form of release within the relationship between “self” and “other.” Thus, the artist is able to draw from his emotional leanings and inner secrets, with no need to conceal himself in these real relationships with others. Through the virtual world of cinema, people gain detachment from the heavy world of reality that makes for a realm outside of the social reality, a garden of refuge. This is much like works of the artists featured in this exhibition, where we find endless joy.