Chen Wenbo “Passage”, 2003
In his pictures Chen Wenbo (b. 1969) deals with the variety of aspects characterizing today's fast-paced life, determined by the power of money, superficiality and instability; he also puts forward an aesthetic manifestation of China's socio-political climate. His pictures usually feature details of urban life--a facade reflecting glittering streetlights or a tunnel leading into nowhere and also seemingly immersed in artificial light. His superrealistic, ductus-negating painting technique corroborates this impression of artificialness, conveying a cool and artificial atmosphere. A human being is nowhere to be seen, only referred to by the form of expression. Chen Wenbo's pictures can be placed in the tradition of photo-realistic painting because of their technique, which the artist utilizes to convey the artificialness and anonymity characteristic of big cities. For him, it's a matter of "depicting the surfaces of things." The tunnel appears to be immersed in excessively artificial light, which dematerializes it and makes it seem like an illusion of the real thing.
In a video called "Bored Youth“ by Zhao Liang (b. 1971), a teenaged actor is walking through the sorry remains of a declining traditional neighborhood of Beijing. We watch him go inside dark, empty houses, and hear rocks falling down, window panes shattering or objects being smashed, as the protagonist is joining in and speeding up the destruction. Slow music without any distinctive rythm accompanies the sequences and enhances the monotony that the film conveys.
With its title "Bored Youth" the video also brings to mind the concept of the so-called "no-future generation" ascribed to Cinese youth. As long-grown traditions become lost and replaced by a life where one always has to go faster, higher, or further, the younger population especially does not always end up in boundless enthusiasm; aimlessness and often total resignation are common effects of these developments, too.
In China, temporariness is a prevalent phenomenon of contemporary life. Living space is temporary, jobs are temporary, the interpersonal institution of marriage is temporary, life is temporary. The exhibition China: Dynamics of the public space puts works of art in dialogue which deal with this rather sobering fact in different ways. They approach the rapid developments of urban space in Beijing, Shanghai or Shenzen by pointing out their negative effects on private and social life. It is true that in its critical and questioning response to the changes of urban space, contemporary Chinese art is not really that different from its Western counterparts. However, globalization, the breeding ground of "generic cities," has hit cities like Beijing and Shanghai with much more force and within much shorter time than the metropolises of the West