Wang Qingsong: Follow You
15 March – 3 August 2014
A giant art installation spanning 400 m2 and five huge photographic works about school systems, change, and the future by one of the greatest contemporary artists working in China today, Wang Qingsong: that is what visitors curently can find at KØS. Several of the photographs have previously been on display at the Venice and Istanbul Biennials in 2013, and Wang Qingsong’s work is also represented in some of the world’s finest museums and photographic galleries. Now, his art is showcased on Danish soil for the first time ever in a major solo exhibition created specifically for KØS.
In the exhibition Follow You, contemporary Chinese artist Wang Qingsong brings the public space of China to KØS, using humour, critique, and striking visual force to address and launch many issues: What kind of development is China undergoing these years? How does globalisation and growth affect Chinese society? How have we set up our school systems in China and Denmark to reflect and safeguard our children’s futures in a globalised world where East and West meet? The artist takes over two whole floors at the museum, including the 400m2 top floor. Here, Wang Qingsong creates a giant installation by wrapping the walls of the room in a distinctive Chinese tarpaulin material striped in red, blue, and white. This kind of material is widely seen in Chinese cities, where it is used to wrap and protect scaffolding, building sites, and temporary fences. In this sense the material becomes a symbol of the tremendous changes currently taking place in China. At the same time the artist has placed 187 so-called “Taboo Pictures” or prohibition signs inside the installation. The images come from the strictly regulated Chinese public space – however, several of them are entirely fictitious.
Danish vs. Chinese school systems
In the second element of the exhibition Wang Qingsong addresses an issue that could hardly be more topical from a Danish perspective: the school system. He does so in a series of painstakingly staged photographs that have been installed like vast tapestries or murals on the museum walls. The photographs were created through a time-consuming process – in some cases spanning an entire year – and were taken in his giant studio on the outskirts of Beijing. This series is about school, learning, and knowledge and takes a critical look at how Chinese society is changing, partly influenced by the West, but also considers the darker aspects of the Chinese school system. In these carefully staged photographs, teeming with thousands of details and references ranging from books and Coca Cola to iconic imagery from Eastern and Western art history, Wang Qingsong appears as both teacher and student.
The 200th anniversary of the Danish school system
The exhibition’s focus on the school system is prompted by several factors: the year 2014 marks the 200th anniversary of the introduction of the Danish primary school system (“Folkeskole”), the KØS museum is housed in a former school building, and a major school reform is currently being implemented in Denmark. These reforms reflect a desire to equip Danish children to navigate a world where competition is global – e.g. from Chinese children – and at the same time China is looking to the Nordic school systems and Danish society for inspiration.
Like a film director at work
Wang Qingsong draws inspiration from the set design and art devices of film as he stages his photographs with the painstaking care of an art director or film director. But he also draws on the tradition for vast, high-impact propaganda plays created during the Cultural Revolution – an amended version of traditional Chinese opera – and he incorporates objects from the old and the new China in his images. Wang Qingsong builds and constructs his photographs like scenes from a film, complete with actors, extras, costumes, objects, and carefully planned details. The artist himself often appears as an extra or as a main protagonist in the photographs, and he is now regarded as one of the world’s leading artists within the art of staged photography.
The exhibition was curated especially for KØS in a process of ongoing dialogue with the Berlin-based, Brazilian-born curator Tereza de Arruda, who is an expert on international contemporary art, specialising in e.g. Chinese and Indian art.
About Wang Qingsong (b. 1966)
Wang Qingsong was born during the Cultural Revolution in China in Daqing in the Heilongjiang province. His childhood was full of responsibilities and obligations, but even as a child he worked actively with art. Wang Qingsong lost his father while he was still a child, meaning that he had to begin working at the tender age of 13 to provide for his family, but nevertheless he successfully enrolled at the Sichuan Art Academy, where he studied oil painting. In the mid-1990s he realised that the art of painting struggled to match the new developments in China, prompting him to work with photography as his chosen medium instead. Today he creates photographic art in his film studio on the outskirts of Beijing. Wang Qingsong has depicted the evolution of society with his trademark traces of sarcasm, humour, and irony since the 1990s, and he holds a central position within Chinese contemporary art.
Join an expert on a guided tour
Saturday 26 April at 2 p.m.
Meet the curator behind the exhibition, the Brazilian-born Tereza de Arruda, who is one of the world’s leading curators within Chinese, African, and Indian contemporary art. She will guide us through the exhibition and talk about Wang Qingsong and the contemporary art scene in China.
Please note: The event is held in English. Limited capacity: all participants must book in advance via email@example.com
The tour is free; the museum’s usual admission fees still apply.
The Chinese Evolution
Thursday 22 May at 5 p.m.
The journalist, writer, and China expert Mette Holm speaks about Chinese society.
Please note: The event is held in Danish. Limited capacity: all participants must book in advance via firstname.lastname@example.org
The talk is free; the museum’s usual admission fees still apply.
KØS your Sunday
From 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Free admission and free guided tours – first Sunday of every month.