• “Spirit” and “Object” — Photography · Video Exhibition of China Academy of Art Curated by Wang Yan, Kristen Wanting Gao...

    “Spirit” and “Object” — Photography · Video Exhibition of China Academy of Art


    Curated by Wang Yan, Kristen Wanting Gao

    Artist: Fan Shunzan, Jiang Zhi, Jiao Jian, Lang Shuilong, Li Shun, Li Wenwen, Liu Gangqiang, Liu Yang, Lv Kaijie, Lv Yijie, Ouyang Haoming, Pan Yiliang, Shao Wenhuan, Tang Jingzhi, Tang Xianying, Wan Bo, Wang Dongling, Xie Guixiang, Andy H. Xin, Xu Sijie, Yang Shu, Zhao Li, Zhou Zijie (Sort by Chinese initials)


    In the "Mnemosyne Atlas", Aby Warburg's most important research project, he used "iconological analysis" method to outline the evolution of ancient images, and their subsequent use, continuation, and change in history, and to explore the huge knowledge network formed by images and images connecting in different times. As the carrier of the images in this study, the photo has broadened the meaning of photography on the iconological level. "Mnemosyne Atlas" also further explores the "Pathosformel" in visual culture, trying to make the changes of images on the spiritual level accessible and understandable and to explore the "spirit" stored and continued in the evolution of time and space. Theoretician W. J. T. Mitchell also reminded people to pay more attention to the emotional and spiritual effects of images while interpreting images from different dimensions, such as graphics, spectrum, language, and philosophy.


    Walter Benjamin mentioned the concept of the "aura" of artworks in his works. It is a spiritual medium hidden in the eyes of the characters in the early portrait photography, which enriches and stabilizes the characters. It is some indescribable representation in the depths of the entanglement of time and space. Also, it is an existence destined to disappear in the artworks in the age of mechanical reproduction. Benjamin affirms the development of technology, and the disappearance of "aura" indicates that photography is separated from the needs of classical aesthetics and that a significant change has taken place, opening up new possibilities.


    The truth conveyed by photography cannot be expressed by painting. A fake painting points to the falsification of art history, while fake photography is accused of falsifying facts. Susan Sontag sums up a primary contradiction in the history of photography as the struggle between "beautification" and "truth-telling". And with the development of technology, it is now a debate on the art and science of two levels - in other words, in the pure visual aesthetic aspect of creation and in the chronicle or practical level - has had an enormous degree of dissociation between the expression, the embodiment of the truth or lies of works has gradually evolved into a pure choice for artists to express their thoughts. Through the lens of the creator, "Heroism of Vision" creates an illusion full of metaphor, conveying to the viewer a constructed world and a new viewing ethic. In this unreal yet nonfictional Platonic world where the known and the unknown are intertwined, "spirit" is transformed into a perception: the creator's perception of everything around the "new world", and the viewer's subjective perception of the core of the creator's work. The intermingling of perceptions exemplifies Guy Debord’s opinion, "When the real world is transformed into mere images, mere images become real beings."


    Photography and video art produced new fissions in the 20th century, breaking the original rules for production, perception and communication and generating a new value system. It is inevitable due to the development of the media as a physical image and the more precise control of light by machines. Thanks to the iterations in technology, artistic creation has been blessed with far more freedom. In the past 40 years, the teaching and creation of photography and video art at the China Academy of Art have always been experimental and pioneering in connecting the past, creating the present, and intervening in the future. Using cross-media art as a carrier, they are committed to building visual aesthetics and image poetics between the invisible and the visible, and between integrated Eastern and Western cultures.


    In 2017, the first West Lake International Documentary Festival (IDF) opened at the China Academy of Art. So far, the festival has become one of the most academic, professional and international documentary film festivals in China and has gained a good reputation in the world. The future of surrealist images has gained new vitality here: a new and different sense of presence and politics of viewing.


    In 2019, to pay tribute to the 1959 edition of the photographic collection "China", the China Academy of Art elaborately created the epic photographic masterpiece "China" (2019) with great ideological, historical, artistic and cultural values. It included master photographers’ magnificent, classic and precious photographic works that recorded the highlight moments in China’s 70 years of development. The photographic collection "China" (2019) attempts to provide another path in iconographic research and analysis for the study of the history and development of Chinese photographic art—a visual art experience resembling "Mnemosyne Atlas".




    This exhibition takes the three entangled relationships between "Spirit" and "Object" as the main clue, and takes the development of photography and video art of the China Academy of Art in the past 40 years as an opportunity, to discuss the spiritual symbolism and emotional transfer that continue in the change of image culture, from the perspectives of image analysis, the evolution of science and technology, and the viewing of photography. Photography always constructs certain visibility in the invisible reality and invisibility in the visible reality. A photograph that exists as an "object" is a kind of visible reality. However, the "spirit" in different dimensions, like the metaphor behind the image, the abstract "aura" in Benjamin's discourse, and some perceptions after subjective transformation, all point to the invisibility of the visible reality.

  • CURATOR: Wang Yan Wang Yan, with a background of musical performance from ShanDong University, was an attendee in International Relationship...

    CURATOR: Wang Yan


    Wang Yan, with a background of musical performance from ShanDong University, was an attendee in International Relationship pre-master course in King’s College, University of London. After graduating from Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design with a master degree, he joined the Ph.D course in Institute of Contemporary Art and Social Thought of Inter-media Art, China Academy of Art. Now he is the deputy director of Visual Culture Research Center and curatorial director in the Urban Media Research and Develop Center of China Academy of Art. His study as a wide range of fields including Contemporary Art, Curatorial Practice, Asian Local Situations, Music and Society, etc. Since 2007, he has curated and co-curated various academic exhibitions and events. In 2012, he cooperated with Central Saint Martin College,Camden Council and Desis Network in the Community Renewal Program(London). In 2012, as the ambassador of “Made In Arts London” for 2012(UAL). Since 2013, he was devoted to the “Till We Have Faces” Asian Society and Art Research Program jointly with Dr. Huang Sunquan (Taiwan, China). In 2018,as the nominator of Jimei x Arles Discovery Award of Jimei x Arles International Photo Festival. In 2019,as the nominator of Hua Yu Youth Award 2019. In 2019, he became invited curator of the year 2019 in Zhe Jiang Art Museum for“Nan Shan 138”programme for the series exhibitions.

  • CURATOR: Kristen Wanting Gao Kristen Wanting Gao is an independent curator and an art writer, she was born in Shandong,...

    CURATOR: Kristen Wanting Gao

    Kristen Wanting Gao is an independent curator and an art writer, she was born in Shandong, China in 1993, currently living in Shanghai, China. She graduated from Display and Art course, School of Art in Donghua University, and Winchester School of Art, University of Southampton(UK) with a Master of Arts with Distinction in MA Contemporary Curation. Her recent research topics include cultural politics, theory of cultural criticism in the twentieth century, and painting-related knowledge production. Curated exhibitions include “The Fossilization of Light - Daido Moriyama”, “The Unbearable Blue of Being”, “In Focus: The Exhibition About Homelessness”, and “They Need Us, We Need Them”. She has worked for several art institutions, and has participated in the curation and organization of exhibitions, such as TATE Modern x John Hansard Gallery “Artist Rooms: Gerhard Richter“, Song Art Museum “Louise Bourgeois: The Eternal Thread“ and “Abstraction(s)”, Shanghai Gallery of Art “Pal(ate)ette” and “AFTERMATH” etc., and wrote research-based catalog articles for many artists.
  • Institutional PartnerThe Department of Photography, China Academy of Art



    The Department of photography was established in 2002 and now it is affiliation to the school of film in the China academy of art. From that time, we’ve been focusing on the main point of "Oriental Visual Art" while standing on the ground of contemporary digital culture and media popularization. Photography here is regarded as a kind of visual language of art, the innovation skills and a way of visual aesthetics understanding. Thereafter our students are encouraged to explore the possibilities of photography, as well as the theory and connotation of visual cultural. Profound knowledge on contemporary digital culture, creative skills with photography, experimental spirit as well as international view are all that our students develop with our courses.
    The Department is based on the background of fine arts meanwhile concentrating on the experimental photographic languages and its possibilities simultaneously. Not only tracing back the traditional techniques of photography, we also pay much attention to the experimental way of the internal value and cultural connotation of photographic media. Thus the student can employ the diversified integration of photography and its technological carriers in use, including fully excavate the function and value of image intervention in visual culture research. Our hope is to build a systematic teaching model of photography and to develop an effective teaching staff. In 2020, the Course of Photography was rewarded as the National First- rate Undergraduate Major.
  • Lang Shuilong, Radiance from the Dust A16 No.1, Dust on linen canvas, 218×395cm, 2016.

  • Zhao Li, Above the Flowing Water, Transparency in Lightbox, 150×163cm, 2022, Courtesy of the artist.

  • Andy H. Xin, Green Stone 03, Series Number: 20200136, Digital Print, Acrylic and Stain Color, 120×100cm, 2020.

  • Shao Wenhuan, Stab, Photography and digital collage, 150×115cm, 2022.

  • Liu Gangqiang, Below the top of the mountain is another mountain, Kallitype ( Hahnemuhle Platinum Rag ), 120×180cm, 2022.

  • Liu Yang, The Aperture of Time: Injured Flowers, Archival Inkjet Print, 60×50cm×9, 2013-2016.

  • Jiao Jian, Fill the Void, Art Micro-Spray, 120×150cm, 2005-2010.

  • Wang Dongling, Flower moon, Platinum paper, 51×61cm, 2014.

  • Jiang Zhi, Fade 06, Archival Inkjet Print, 150×200cm, 2016-2017.

  • Li Shun, Portrait-Ernest Miller Hemingway, Drawing on paper, 8×10inches Black and White Negative photographic plate, 25.4×20.32cm×2, 2017.