Emergence - A Contemporary Chinese Art Exhibition


Wu Hongbin

On the whole, the narration of previous art history depends on the subjective and objective state of "narrator". For example, the verification and selection of historical facts and data show obvious exclusiveness, so does the use of methodology. As a result, the "rewrite of art history" was discussed heated in the art history research field in the late 20th century. The unchangeable but regrettable history might be the charm for research of historical phenomenon. Contemporary art differs from the logic limitation of previous linear narration. This is what interests the researchers of contemporary art. However, the absence of specific research perspective and method becomes the main problem faced by artists and theorists.

The Emergence theory which is derived from system science deserves our imitation and reflection when we are faced with contemporary art phenomenon. John Henry Holland, the main founder of "Emergence" theory, described "Emergence" as: "All phenomena that the whole behavior of a process is more complicated than its main parts can be called 'Emergence'". Generally speaking, "Emergence" refers to the unforeseen complicated phenomenon caused by the simple interactive behaviors preset among individuals in a system. Therein, the "relationship between system and individual" and "unforeseen phenomenon" deserve reflection upon Chinese contemporary art phenomenon. Before that, we adopt reduction theory to explain problems, whose basic viewpoint is that the whole is composed of parts; therefore, the parts decide the whole. The analysis mode of reduction theory is consistent with our previous thinking habit. Any change in the whole is attributable to its parts. Thus, individuals become the mechanical characterization of whole. So there is only "specific spokesperson" but no "clear subject" in our contemporary art. But, "Emergence" highlights the macroscopic system's mutation in performance and institution on the basis of microscopic subject evolution. During that period, new substance comes into being from old substance. In other words, the Emergence phenomenon, centering on interaction, is more complicated than the mere accumulation of single behaviors. Namely, "the whole is larger than the sum of parts". The Emergency thus can be understood as "irreducibility" or "nonadditivity" because it tells us that these characteristics disappear as long as the whole is decomposed into its parts. This is the core problem of Chinese contemporary art at present.

In this China’s contemporary art exhibition titled "Emergence", we are aimed at studying "Emergence individuals" as a whole in Chinese contemporary art, then, exploring the occurrence conditions, mechanism, rules and function of whole Emergence based on the scientific theory of Emergency raised by system science. We will discuss what new properties or rules are generated at the level of whole when individuals of Emergence abide by their rules and make up a whole under the action of local interaction.

Obviously, Chinese contemporary art is a complicated system. We need to cross the border of discipline field and adopt new perspective to know the cultural system, social system, spiritual system and scientific system of this complicated system. Perhaps, there is no need to pay attention to the language details of every individual just like before, but, we can look for the similarities and differences between different systems and the unknown possibility through metaphor and analogy. In this activity, eight Chinese contemporary artists are selectively invited: Zhang Chunhua, Zhou Song, Li Hongbo, Wang Fei, Li Wang, Jia Shanguo, Jia Xinyu and Yang Shuwen. During invitation, we take into account their age, gender, theme of work, form of art expression and their cognition level in art circles at present. We hope that we can show the more objective "Emergency phenomenon" by "differentiation" and "representativeness" in Chinese contemporary art field. In addition, we hope these "individuals" can interact to expound "Emergency" in another cultural context.

From a certain perspective, this activity is an "intertextuality" experiment because eight artists exchange their thoughts and the representatives of civilizations of two regions (Beijing and Toronto) have cultural exchange with each other in this summer.

Academic Advisor

Dr. Wu Hongbin

Hongbin Wu

Wu Hongbin, an associate professor and a master supervisor with Renmin University of China, an art doctor graduating from Chinese National Academy of Arts and an art post-doctor with Central Academy of Fine Arts, a member of the international selection committee and a Chinese curator of the ninth Florence Biennale and the academic director for the research group on sketching and creation of "free brushwork spirit" Chinese oil paintings. Research fields: Art history and criticism, modern and contemporary art theories, art management and planning. Key academic fruits: The state, provincial and ministry level research programs chaired and participated include key national art program, youth programs of humanities and social sciences of the Ministry of Education, programs of China Postdoctoral Foundation and programs of Central Foundation for Key Universities; publishing Research of Contemporary Chinese Art Expos (monograph), Twenty Years of Chinese Art Expos (1993-2013) (monograph), Dialogue with Free Brushwork: Collection of Dialogues with Contemporary Chinese Oil Painters (compiler), Impressionist Landscape Painting Masters (chief editor), French Countryside Landscape Painting Masters (chief editor), British Landscape Painting Masters (chief editor), American Landscape Painting Masters (chief editor) and Russian Landscape Painting Masters (chief editor), etc.; publishing over sixty academic papers in professional journals such as Art Research, Art Observation, Arts, Wenyi Zhengming, Literary and Art Theory and Criticism, Art Review; key exhibitions planned: Chinese Art Exhibition of the ninth Florence Biennale (Florence), "Renaissance in the Orient" Themed Art Exhibition (Medici Palace of Italy) and France Grand Palais Art Salon (Paris), etc.