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Updating China - Art and Architecture Exhibition on Sustainable Urban Development in China
Date: 5 Sep - 5 Oct 2010

As an echo to the exhibition “Updating Germany” at the German Pavilion of 2008 Venice Architecture Biennale, UPDATING CHINA will be presented at the pre-opening office of Shanghai Himalayas Art Museum (previously known as Zendai Museum of Modern Art) from Sep. 5 to Oct. 5, 2010. The documentary and art exhibition will feature sustainable development, providing an example to share experiences and know-how from one part of the world with another, drawing attention to our attitudes to various environmental, social and cultural challenges.

The exhibition aims to shed some light on the self-updating of China, including the constant self-adaptation of cities, environments, living conditions, lifestyles, arts and cultural symptoms, as well as the updating on a conceptual level in terms of recognizing and reevaluating the development path of China.

The exhibition consists of two parts: 40 documented architecture samples and artworks of artists and architects from China and German. Names of nominated artists, architects and designers include: Qiu Zhijie, Xu Tan, Liu Guangyun, Yao Lu, Jin Jiangbo, Yin Jia, Lin Yilin, Zhang Ke, Yuan Feng, Chen Xudong, Liu Heng, Xu Tiantian, Han Tao, Zhu Xiaofeng, Ina Weber, Julika Gittner, Michael Krenz and Markus Heinsdorff. Works to be put on display vary in forms, including models, installations, videos and performance. The works and 40 documentary samples collectively form an interactive intertextual reading, from which reflection, practices and discussions about sustainable development in contemporary China can be perceived.

Preface to Updating China

Shen Qibin
, director of Himalayas Art Museum

As the world’s second largest economy and a leading role among developing countries, China is currently enjoying rapid development and the “Chinese phenomenon” has become a focus of media attention worldwide. With the successful hosting of the Olympics and World Expo, China has reached such attention to such a degree almost unprecedented in recent history. In the light of the influence and power presently enjoyed by China, any political or economic moves it takes may possibly cause a stir in a broader scenario. However, despite all the exciting and encouraging aspects we witness, we have to be aware that there’s something upsetting behind the surface. Evidently, such dramatic development is achieved, to a large extent, at the expense of excessive consumption of resources and destructive damage to the ecological environment. From a long-term perspective, the prosperity attained in this way is short-sighted, temporary and unsustainable, sacrificing the benefits of future generations. In this regard, the notion of “Updating China” aims to explore possible solutions to achieve sustainable development.

Different approaches and standpoints need to be adopted when reviewing the following questions: Is there any hidden perils looming behind the impressively rapid development of China? Is the current development mode, to some extent, devastating and unsustainable in the long run? To figure out all these grand questions, we need to go back to the context of local culture. As a matter of fact, the GDP growth that we are desperately after is by nature conflicting with sustainable development and utilization of resources, and therefore conflicting with our traditional cultural values. One of the most distinctive characteristics of traditional Chinese culture is the great worship to the nature. It is strongly against the idea to regard human beings as the dominator who can do whatever they want to the nature. In other words, whoever violates the law of the nature would be punished by it in the end. A harmonious relationship between man and nature plays a central role in the philosophy of Chinese traditional culture. Hence, by presenting the notion of “Updating China” we don’t mean to subvert the tradition or initiate a new revolution. What we look forward to is an update in the ideological level, leading us to leave the previous development mode behind and find a new and sustainable way forward.

Why Updating China? Through the exhibition, we want to further investigate and put in practice the notion that “update, rather than a subversive or destructive force, is the sustainable development of internal logic and a positive shift”. Nineteen artists, architects and designers from both China and Germany will present their reflection upon the theme “Updating China”. The exhibition will feature 5 sub-themes, namely Sustainable Urban Planning, Eco-Friendly Green Architecture, From Past to Future, Social Responsibility and Low-Cost Construction, and Sustainability in Art and Culture. Moreover, with the 40 best practice cases selected by the forum of Urban Academy, the document hereby formed further enriches and diversifies the exhibition.

From the museum’s point of view, the exhibition can be seen as a brand new attempt. Thanks to the participation of artists, architects and designers both at home and from abroad and the collaboration with art museum and Goethe Institute, the mutual influence and interaction among different cultures are further highlighted, reflecting the wide spectrum and diversity of contemporary art. On behalf of the Himalayas Art Museum, I would like to extend my sincere gratitude to the German Consulate General Shanghai, the Goethe-Institut and “Germany and China—Moving Ahead Together” culture project for their great support and collaboration. I would also like to thank all the participating artists, architects and designers for their brilliant contribution. We firmly believe that through the exhibition we would be able to review the reality from more diversified perspectives and gain more insights into the process of updating.

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