A Man Pumping in the Desert, Ningxia, 2011, photo by Zhang Kechun. Courtesy of Zhang Kechun.

Ecological Awareness in Chinese Contemporary Art

The post-doctoral research project “Ecological Awareness in Chinese Contemporary Art” aims to provide a comprehensive understanding of the “ecological turn” in Chinese contemporary art since the early 1990s. The conduction of this research is built on an in-depth investigation of 18 Chinese artists and their works. The study of the “ecological turn” contains three dimensions. First, this study discusses the ecological issues these Chinese artists have addressed, and how these issues have referred to the artists’ personal experiences. Second, it explores these artists’ creative process, such as their art concepts, their application of materials and mediums, their exhibition strategies and etc. The third dimension is focused on the artists’ multi- and cross-disciplinary efforts to solve ecological and environmental problems through the use of art.

The researcher Yang Jing is from China. She received her PhD in art history from University of Jyväskylä in 2015. She is undertaking this post-doctoral research at Department of Music, Art and Culture Studies of JYU.

This research project is currently granted by Finnish Cultural Foundation.



    Pursuit for the Tao through the Silkworm: A Conversation with Liang Shaoji
    The Chinese artist Liang Shaoji has been working intensively with silkworms for almost 30 years. His abundant art practices under the Nature Series have become a unique phenomenon in Chinese contemporary art. Liang was awarded the Chinese Contemporary Art Award (CCAA) in 2002 and the Prince Claus Award in 2009. In this conversation, he discusses how he has transformed the life process of the silkworm into an artistic language to explore the relationship between human beings and non-human life. He also articulated the association between the Nature Series and philosophy, history and culture, highlighting the integrity of ecology and culture, an idea which has traditionally been highly valued in Chinese culture and art.
    Wisdom in Rocks: A Conversation with Zhan Wang
    The Chinese artist Zhan Wang has been widely noted for his conceptual sculptural works. Through simulating rocks and rock-formation processes by using modern technology and materials, he interrogates the dichotomies between humanity and nature, humanity and technology, modernity and tradition, and development and preservation. In this conversation, Zhan reviewed the conception and making of his works that particularly dealing with rocks. He also explained his views on a series of issues such as ecological awareness, the environmental crisis, the social engagement of art and the blurring of boundaries between art and other fields
    Uprooted: A conversation with Artist Yang Yi
    Chinese photo artist Yang Yi was born in a small town by the Yangtze River. His Uprooted series made in 2007 foreshadowed the inundation of his hometown due to the construction of Three Gorges Project and the loss and preservation of memories. For Yang Yi, the Three Gorges Project not only inundated the physical space, but affected all of life and disrupted a long history and tradition of his hometown. Yang Yi has participated in many solo and group exhibitions in China and abroad. In 2010, he was selected to be one of that year’s PDN 30 New and Emerging Photographers to Watch.
    Plants, Sites and Political Discourses: A conversation with Artist Zheng Bo
    Hong Kong based Chinese artist Zheng Bo is committed to socially and ecologically engaged art. He investigates the past and imagines the future from the perspectives of marginalized communities and marginalized plants. He has worked with a number of museums and art spaces in Asia and Europe, most recently TheCube Project Space (Taipei), the Power Station of Art (Shanghai), the Sifang Art Museum (Nanjing), the Times Museum (Guangzhou), the Cass Sculpture Foundation (Chichester, UK), and Villa Vassilieff (Paris).
    The Collapsing World Landscape : A Conversation with Artist Shang Yang
    Taking landscape as the source of his work; Chinese artist Shang Yang’s real interest is to express his concern about the relationship between humans and the environment. Shang Yang has anchored his art to China’s environmental problems since the early 1990s. He has depicted the collapse of the landscape, and the pathology of the declining environments in contemporary China. As a leading artist in the country, his art plays an important role in Chinese contemporary art history. In 2013, he won the Lifetime Achievement Award of AAC (Award of Art China).
    From Beijing Besieged by Waste to Plastic China : A Conversation with Artist Wang Jiuliang
    Wang Jiuliang is a Chinese photographer and video artist based in Beijing. Since 2008, he has been focusing on the issue of waste. From 2008 to 2013 he investigated more than 460 landfills around Beijing and made a 76-minute documentary film, Beijing Besieged by Waste, which attracted extensive media attention in China and abroad. Wang Jiulaing won a Gold Award as Outstanding Artist of the Year at the 2009 Lianzhou International Photography Festival. Since 2014, Wang Jiuliang launched an investigation on imported plastic wastes in China. In November 2016, Plastic China was awarded the 2016 IDFA Special Jury Award for First Appearance. He is regarded not only as an artist, but also as a social and environmental activist.
    The Beauty of Construction Garbage : A Conversation with Artist Yao Lu
    Yao Lu is a renowned Chinese photographer based in Beijing. He studied at Central Academy of Fine Arts, China and Queensland College of Art, Griffith University in Brisbane, Australia. Since 2006 he has created a large series of works in which he expresses a sarcastic contradiction between the idyllic imagery of Chinese Mountain-and-Water painting and garbage from contemporary urban construction, revealing the effects of the mass urbanization process in China. In 2008 he won the Paris Photo BMW Prize for contemporary photography, and was shortlisted for the prestigious Prix Pictet 2009.
    Going Home : A Conversation with Artist Mu Ge
    In 2004, noticing the scale of the demolition, displacement and relocation of the Three Gorges Project, Chinese photographer Mu Ge started to focus on the living conditions of ordinary people in the Three Gorges region. His photographic series Going Home was nominated for the Foam Paul Huf Award in 2011 and selected as a Juror’s Pick for the 2012 Daylight Photo Awards. Since 2013, he has been working on Behind the Wall, a new series that takes the destruction of the environment and the people’s survival situation under the background of mass urbanization and industrialization in northern China as the main concern. Mu Ge’s work has been shown in many exhibitions.
    An Elegy for Rivers and Mountains : A Conversation with Artist Zhang Kechun
    Chinese artist Zhang Kechun was the winner of the Discovery Award at the 45th Rencontres d’Arles and 2015 Contemporary Talents Competition. Zhang Kechun’s elegant and tranquil photos revealed the impact of human activity on nature and the ecological deterioration in different regions of China. His two photographic series, The Yellow River, and Between Mountains and Waters, have attracted considerable media attention both in China and abroad.
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