From Vladivostok to Xishuangbanna
Artists: Ma Haijiao
Curator: Mia Yu
With two recent work series by Ma Haijiao, the exhibition "From Vladivostok to Xishuangbanna" explores the multivalent semantics of the color green between the artificial and the natural, between the real and the fake, between history and memory, between geography and national identity. In the first exhibition hall, dozens of black-and-white photographs are solemnly hung on the white wall which is painted with green wall-skirt. This photo series was done during an artistic residency in Vladivostok, Russia's largest port in the Far East. The port city was once part of the Qing Empire till the mid-19th century. As the result of the unequal Treaty of Peking in 1860, it was ceded along with other territory east of the Ussuri River to the Russian Empire. The cession was part of Russian encroachment on China's northeastern frontier since the 17th century, and also an important part of the reshaping of modern China's territory under the colonial imperialist invasions in the 19th century.
Although the geopolitical conflicts of modern Northeast Asia have faded away into the peaceful everyday of Vladivostok, the fragmentary Chinese characters on the signboards still strike the sensitive eye of the artist. In the series Invisible Shore, the artist collected a number of Chinese characters seen on the streets of Vladivostok, such as "无往不利" (smooth sailing), "风景这边独好" (The scenery here is unique), "当心" (beware) and "一路平安" (bon voyage) , as well as awkward Chinglish translation such as "不限流量的肉" (unlimited meat). He printed these characters on logs and threw them into Lake Khanka which demarcates the Russian-Chinese border, as well as the waters around Vladivostok. The logs drift in the waters between the two countries, with the possibility of crossing the border at any moment. As the logs change sides, the characters subtly change their meanings and narratives. In the triptych In a Quiet Place, the artist placed a signage in the woods which says "The worst evil act that a nation can do to us is that they all disappear from Vladivostok at once".
The sentence originates from the book The Chinese in Vladivostok, which reads: " The worst evil act that a nation can do to us is that they all left Vladivostok at once". This statement is set against the backdrop of the Soviet government's deportation of the Chinese in the Far East in the late 1930s, and alludes to the Blagoveshchensk Massacre in 1900. The artist's monumental black-and-white photography deliberately erases the green in the woods. The green wall paint in the exhibition space also suggests the collective memories and history, implying the
profound influence of Soviet Russia on modern and contemporary China. As we move to the second space, the green fills the entire space. Here the green shifts to a more diverse contemporary semantics.
This part of the exhibition marks the debut of Ma Haijiao's new project If You Delete the Green and If You Start Caring about Plants. The project takes "green" and "plants" as dual themes to develop an interwoven association and narration, while deliberately blurring the conceptual boundaries between the two. Two videos were respectively shot in a studio and a tropical jungle. The artificial greenery, green screen for special effects, green traffic lights, art historical images with botanical metaphors, and LED screens with rolling text appear alternately on the scenes, and are also interspersed in the video narrative. As Ma Haijiao remarked, "It is an artificial green space. Without depending on the narrative, the images themselves are left as green tones on different visual layers. At the same time, what is presented of the tone is the symbolic meaning of the color green as an abstract symbol at different levels." Between various layers of green, Ma Haijiao has created a theatre of images in which green acts as a historical carrier, a cultural and abstract symbol, as well as a technological condition.
If We Delete Green, If We Start Caring About Plants.2019-2020
If We Delete Green, If We Start Caring About Plants.2019-2020
In a Quiet Place.2018
Ma Haijiao was born in Hebei Province, China and studied from 2009 to 2016 at the China Academy of Art, where he obtained both a BA and MFA. He now lives and works in Beijing.
Ma Haijiao’s art practice has an enduring concern with the daily routine of life, and taking this as his starting point, he traces its logic to shape video narratives and other works. His recent solo exhibitions include "Happy Valley II" (Discoveries, Art Basel, Hong Kong, 2019); "Happy Valley" (Tabula Rasa Gallery, Beijing, 2018); and “Message to the Future” (Canvas Contemporary Gallery, Amsterdam, 2017). His recent group exhibitions include "An Impulse to Turn" (Inside-Out Art Museum, Beijing, 2020); "Array: EACA 2019" (Gallery Baton, Seoul, 2019); "SYMBIOSIS: The Intertextuality of Art and Poetry" (OCAT, Shengzhen, 2019); "8102: On Reality" (OCAT, Shanghai); "Today's Yesterday: The 1st Anren Biennale" (Chengdu, 2017); “The New Normal”（Ullens Center for Contemporary Art, Beijing, 2017）; and "Why Not Ask Again: The 11th Shanghai Biennale" (Power Station of Art, Shanghai, 2016). Ma Haijiao won EACA (East Asian Contemporary Art) prize in 2019 and was a finalist for the Huayu Youth Award in Art Sanya 2018 the 10th Three Shadows Photography Award. He was also a nominee for the A021xPORSCHE Young Chinese Artist of the Year, 2017.
His work has been collected by Smart Museum of Art (Chicago), Power Station of Art (Shanghai) and ZARYA Center for Contemporary Art (Vladivostok).
Mia Yu was born in Shenyang, grew up in Shenyang , Vancouver and Montreal, and now lives in Beijing. She is an art historian, curator, and guest editor of YISHU: Journal of Contemporary Chinese Art. . Her research is centered on transnational modernism, postwar Third World cultural exchange, and exhibition histories of global contemporary art. Her research papers have appeared in the book Uncooperative Contemporaries: Art Exhibitions in Shanghai c.2000 (Afterall Exhibition Histories series) and other journals, including the Journal of Art Historiography, Mousse, and LEAP. In 2017, Mia Yu edited the special issue Atlas of Archives: Historical Imaginations in Chinese Contemporary Art for YISHU. She has curated numerous conferences, symposia and exhibitions for various art institutions, including “Floating Constellation：Border-Crossing Exchanges and Trajectories within Asia and Beyond” at Times Art Center Berlin in 2019, the “Curating Geography” symposium at New Century Art Foundation in 2019, the Para-curatorial Symposium at Guangdong Times Museum in 2017, “Archives Between Past and Future” at Asia Art Archive in 2016, the retrospective exhibition “Ni Jun: An Inconvenient Case” at PIFO Art Center in 2019, and “Adad Hannah: Wild Songs” in 2016. Mia Yu’s videos and installations—based on her art historical research—have been exhibited at Time Art Center Berlin, Villa Vassilieff Paris, Guangdong Times Museum, Asia Society Hong Kong, Shenzhen Art Museum and Jiangsu Provincial Museum. She was the winner of Yishu Award for Critical Writing on Contemporary Art in 2018 and the CCAA Art Critic Award in 2015 and has received a Tate Asia Research Fellowship. Mia Yu is on the jury committees for the Hyundai Blue Prize for emerging curators, the Porsche Young Artist Awards, and the Art Nova Awards.