A Short Tour of Three Major Contemporary Art Exhibitions in China: Part 3: Third Nanjing Triennial


Image: Joonho Jeon, Hyper Realism

After navigating my way through one of the busiest train stations in the world, and a two hour journey, I arrived in Nanjing where the Nanjing Triennial, the city's third, was still unfinished when I turned up to the city's history museum. Entitled 'Reflective Asia', the exhibition is an ambitious survey of contemporary art in Asia. An anti-western bent ran throughout the show, in stark contrast to Maharaj's declaration of openness and internationalism at the Guangzhou Triennial.

Of those pieces that were in operation the day that I visited, Jun Nguyen-Hatsushiba's piece Memorial Project Nha Trang, Vietnam was a moving underwater video of rickshaws being pulled by their drivers. Kim Kira's A Security Garden as Paranoia is an installation piece that plays on systems of display and surveillance with arrangements of bonsai trees, tacky Disney toys, neon lights, classical Korean artifacts with security cameras and monitors hidden between them. Another South Korean artist, Joonho Jeon's triptych of videos, Hyper Realism, is a comment on his own country's neighbor, North Korea. On one screen is an animation of a crowd of people trying to scale a wall but the video loops before anyone can reach the other side. The middle screen shows waltzing toy soldiers and the third brings the figure on the North Korean 100 won note to life as a man who walks around aimlessly in the scenery.

Image: Kim Kira, A Security Garden as Paranoia

After my journey around the country, it was evident that the three major bi/triennials took significantly different paths in terms of theme and execution, while at the same time capturing important facets of contemporary art production within the rapidly shifting landscape of China today.

Based in London, but currently resident curator at the OCT Contemporary Art Terminal in Shenzhen, China Claire Louise Staunton works as a curator, producer and writer. She is a fellow on the Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA) Creative Leadership Programme and is a visiting lecturer at the UCL Museum Studies Department. Having previously worked as a co-programmer and curator of the Whitechapel Gallery Late Nights sound and visual program, Claire founded the organization Inheritance Projects, a commissioning curatorial agency working with contemporary artists in response to heritage institutions and historical archives. She is currently involved in a number of other projects with the London based Artangel, the Art Council England and the Jerwood Trust. Her writing can be found on Rhizome, Open Dialogues, AN and in the visual cultures journal Nowiswere.