深圳当代艺术的发展最早可以溯源至85新潮时期，当时深圳作为一个新兴的、充满想象张力的城市，催生和兴起了一些零星的艺术行动和个体实践，但其时，深圳的使命还是在于经济和政治领域的试验与奇迹创造，文化艺术的发展处于 “萌而未发” 的状态。
深圳当代艺术呈现出个体迁徙、频繁流动的状态，我们对 “深圳当代艺术家” 的界定也因应这种特质。他们中既有深耕二三十年的艺术家梁铨、周力，也有在深圳开启其艺术的重要岁月后又北上的蒋志，还有新生代的80后艺术家李燎；既有近几年离开学院迁徙到深圳的薛峰，也有处于候鸟状态、将深圳作为 “落脚城市” 的沈少民。我们都将他们纳入到深圳当代艺术家的范畴进行考察、梳理和展览呈现。我们当然深知其判断本身一方面会推动地方艺术生态的基础建设，同时也意味着这个工作会充满挑战和艰辛。但我们坚信，发展到今天的深圳当代艺术，亟需对自己过去短暂而丰富的历史进行回顾、梳理和审视，并对此时此地的现场形成观察和判断。深圳当代艺术要继续靠前走，就需要有一些自我的审视和冒险。
记得已故的深圳当代艺术的重要推动者、艺术评论家黄专说过一句话：“不是什么时代都能进入历史，只有那些真正改变了我们的生活价值的时代才能进入历史；不是任何人都能进入历史，只有那些真正具有创造能力的人才能进入历史。” 坪山美术馆就是在寻找那些 “改变” 和 “创造”，并将其编织到当代艺术的深圳叙事之中，我们希望以此为深圳、为中国南方当代艺术生态搭建出一些牢固和有时间重量感的 “基础设施”。
作为深圳当代艺术家系列之一，沈少民和其他艺术家有着不同的轨迹。他成名于2000年后的亚太当代艺术界，有着独特的人生旅程，50年代出生于中国重工业基地东北，80年代末前往北京，90年代初迁往澳洲。千禧年后归国，重返北京，在大庆创作了 “骨头系列”、“抽油机” 等代表作品，参加了一系列重要的双年展，成为中国 “大型装置” 和 “新材料” 的代表人物。2015年去往广州，3年前定居深圳，和深圳市人工智能与机器人研究院，创建了科学＋艺术联合实验室。
80年代的精神，终在市场化和专业化的分工中结束，各领域开始闭门造车和独自前行。对艺术、诗歌、科学之间的差异性的强调，取代了彼此的校对和启示，学科之间的对立和反思也逐渐消失。让我们试想，如果将 “想象力”、“创造力” 和 “无用” 的意义，在艺术、诗歌、科学三个领域中进行单独的思考，它们之间的历史似乎毫无关联，每个学科都以谈论自身的特殊性，作为走向未来的理由。然而，在沈少民的科学简史中，这些不同学科对于 “想象力” 和 “无用” 的思考得以链接，彼此含混、校对、辩驳和反思，成为彼此的他者和标尺。
《沈少民的科学简史》亦是一部感知和反思的历史，它以艺术剧场和诗歌短句的方式，将那些分属于不同时代的科学与技术重新审视，构成一部昨日、今日与未来的时空剧场。迷宫的尽头，AI算法模拟了观众自己与自己的告别，镜像和现实有着一样的真实与虚拟。两把一样的巨型卷尺，丈量着彼此的长度，像是个体注定的旅途，审视、怀疑，而又充满坚定的信念，周而复始。当用圆珠笔画圆珠笔，用铅笔画铅笔，用很多个自己画自己，再次揭示了自我的矛盾性。两组空调，也有相似的情境，人为的控制自然，在不同空间中却带来了两种极端的天气和性格。制冷与散热的相互抵消，最终让一切变的徒劳。在展览的尾声，退役的机器人，见证了科技革命的兴起，也注定成为变革的代价，像是时代巨变中被遗忘的人和物，“无聊” 而又 “无用” 的动作，成为科学与创造的挽歌。
“诗歌” 和 “艺术” 成为沈少民切入科学简史的支点和目光，他将科学和技术的故事拟人化，用艺术和诗歌的 “无用” 审视着科技的实用性和有效性，以诗歌和艺术中的虚无感和怀疑主义，调侃坚信科技进步的乐观主义。同样，他以科学猜想中抽象的想象力，以科学史的发明实验中那些弯路、错误、光怪陆离的失败实验，反视艺术中所谓的创造力和实验性。沈少民以其一贯的观念互博和辩证，重申 “无用”、“想象” 和 “可能性” 作为一种浪漫的雄心，一份奇想而又无与伦比的柔情，对于人的精神含义。
沈少民的科学简史亦是关于理想的讨论，人类明日的许诺，意义的 “徒劳” 与 “消耗” 的反思。最终，在艺术的想象中，这部个人的科学简史，这场积极的徒劳，有了一个浪漫、抒情、无用的诗人肖像，让未来不在 “实用” 中死去。
The development of contemporary art in Shenzhen can be traced back to as early as 85 New Wave period. At that time, as a burgeoning and imaginative city, Shenzhen gave birth to some sporadic art movements and individual practices. However, Shenzhen then was obligated to undertake the mission of conducting experiments and thereby working miracles in the economic and political fields. As a result, culture and art were emerging, with dramatic growth yet to come.
Until 1997, Shenzhen witnessed the building and opening of He Xiangning Art Museum and Guan Shanyue Art Museum in the same year. Contemporary art in Shenzhen has shown an increasingly clear academic positioning, while demonstrating the rise and vitality of Pearl River Delta in the contemporary art context. In 2005, OCAT, initiated by Huang Zhuan among others, was formally established in Shenzhen, marking the awakening of the subjective consciousness of contemporary art in Shenzhen. It can be concluded that Shenzhen position and its independent efforts concerning Chinese contemporary art have helped facilitate the academic research and value construction of Chinese contemporary art. At this stage, the contemporary art in Shenzhen has also witnessed the sprouting of non-indigenous and events-based art when a surprising number of biennales came out. Objectively speaking, the series of practices loosened and cultivated the soil for contemporary art in Shenzhen, while promoting and shaping the basic appearance of the development of contemporary art in Shenzhen today.
Against this backdrop, Pingshan Art Museum was established as the times demanded. Over the past two years of work, we have been emphasizing historical perspectives, contemporary pivots and prudent judgment, which should play a role in the construction of contemporary art scenes and local art. Based on the realistic situation and development stage of contemporary art in Shenzhen, the Shenzhen Contemporary Artists Series is expected to promote the major construction of contemporary art in Shenzhen by means of inspiring, assisting and inheriting acts. We hope to present the structure and texture of Shenzhen contemporary art through the analysis of individual cases. The richer the texture, the greater intellectual thickness and potential the city will have.
The contemporary art in Shenzhen presents a state of individual migration and frequent movement, which prompts the definition of “Shenzhen Contemporary Artists”. Among them are the artists Liang Quan and Zhou Li who have been involved into the field for 20 or 30 years, Jiang Zhi who went north after the momentous years of starting out a career as an artist in Shenzhen, as well as Li Liao born in 1980s. Besides, the said artists also include Xue Feng who has left school and moved to Shenzhen, and Shen Shaomin, who treats Shenzhen as a temporary place of lodging like a migratory bird. We categorize them as Shenzhen contemporary artists for inspection, sorting and exhibiting. Certainly, we are aware that the judgment itself will promote the infrastructure construction of the local art ecology on the one hand, which also means that this work will be full of challenges and hardships. However, we firmly believe that the shenzhen contemporary art today needs to be reviewed, sorted out and examined concerning its short yet rich history, thus resulting in observations of and judgments on the scene here and now. Should the contemporary art in Shenzhen advance, it needs some self-examination and adventure.
I recall that the late Huang Zhuan, an important promoter of contemporary art in Shenzhen and an art critic, said: “Not all times can go down in history. Only those times that have truly changed the value of our lives can make history; not everyone can go down in history. Only those who are genuinely able to produce creations can pass into history.” Pingshan Art Museum is looking for those “changes” and “creations”, while weaving them into the narrative of Shenzhen contemporary art. We hope to build some solid and time-honored “infrastructure” for Shenzhen and for the contemporary art ecology in southern China.
Liu Xiaodu, Director of Pingshan Art Museum
Zhong Gang, Editor of Readers of Shenzhen Contemporary Artists Series
Shaomin Shen’s Brief History of Science
As one of the artists featured in the Shenzhen Contemporary Artists Series, Shen Shaomin seems to have different trajectory. Before growing his fame in the post-2000 Asia-Pacific contemporary art world, his unique journey started to unfold back in the 1950s when he was born in a northeast province of China, an area known for heavy industry. Then he moved to Beijing in the late 1980s, and migrated to Australia in the early 1990s, where he stayed for around 10 years before coming back to Beijing after 2000. With his representative works such as “Bone Series” and “Kowtow Pump” created in Daqing, Heilongjiang Province, Shen has participated in multiple highly-recognized biennial exhibitions, thus gaining the reputation as the vanguard artist of “large-scale installation” and “new material” in China. In 2015, he went to Guangzhou and then settled in Shenzhen 3 years ago, where he established the Joint Laboratory of Science and Art with the Shenzhen Institute of Artificial Intelligence and Robotics for Society.
The themes of Shen’s works reflect great scientific changes taking place in the second half of the 20th century, including the industrial leap of Daqing Oilfield, the rapid development of aerospace technologies, the emergence of natural sciences, as well as the rise of high-tech industries in Shenzhen. He used a wide spectrum of materials to visualize his art, including animals, bones, sea salt, trees, specimens, drawings, measuring tools, large industrial machinery, daily household appliances, biological consciousness, computers, robots, aircraft, face recognition technology, and virtual technology covering various disciplines ranging from art, poetry, history, documentary, sound, to science and technology. The complex elements involved epitomize the evolution of our times, compiling an encyclopedia of futurism starting from the very beginning of the 20th century, and his unique individual brief history of science.
This exhibition shed a spotlight on Shen’s creations in recent years, focusing on three fields, art, poetry and science, which not only extends his early exploration of the relationship between art and science in China after the millennium, but also presents the artist’s unique interdisciplinary perspective and expression, consistent evolution of his artistic language as well as humorous interrogations around concepts and poetic odes for romanticism.
The exhibition took the theme from “Science and Civilization in China”, a popular book initiated and edited by Joseph Needham in the 1980s and it took him several decades to finish it. The “science mania” ignited by this masterpiece allowed Westerners to peek into the relationship between science and civilization in ancient China, evidently testifying science as a co-creation of different civilizations. The broad enthusiasm behind humanism, the passion for scientific research, together with the philosophical inspiration, artistic enlightenment, and poetic lifestyle back then are woven into the ideals for the current generation.
The cultural blossom of the 1980s finally withered due to marketization and industrial specialization when various fields began to move forward in silos. The emphasis on the differences among art, poetry, and science eclipsed the interaction and inspiration in between and invalidated interdisciplinary antagonisms and reflections. If we were to put “imagination”, “creativity” and “futility” separately in art, poetry and science, with no latent relationship being considered, then each discipline would only develop based on its own particularity. However, in Shen’s brief history of science, all thoughts about “imagination” and “futility” are interconnected, obscuring, calibrating, refuting and reflecting on each other, thus becoming each other’s reference.
“Shen Shaomin’s Brief History of Science” is also a history of perception and reflection. By re-examining science and technology of different times in the form of artistic repertoire and short poems, he’s created a theater arching over the past, present and future. At the end of the maze, the AI algorithm simulates the audience’s farewell to themselves, blurring the fine line between the virtual and real. Two identical giant rulers measure each other’s lengths along destined tracks, with firm beliefs, relentlessly scrutinizing and doubting each other. A picture of a ballpoint pen was drawn with ballpoint pens. And a picture of a pencil was drawn with pencils. Likewise, a picture of us can only be finished with ourselves, which once again reveals the contradictory nature of “self”. It’s also true for the two groups of air conditioners. Artificial control of nature brings two kinds of extreme weather and personalities in different spaces, where the offset of cooling and heating makes every effort in vain. At the exit of the exhibition, retired robots, as the cost of revolution, are witnessing the iteration of technology. They were left behind by the times, with their “monotonous” and “futile” movements composing an elegy for science and innovation of the past.
“Poetry” and “art” have become the fulcrum and lighthouse for Shen Shaomin’s entry into the brief history of science. By personifying the story of science and technology, the artist examines the scientific practicality and effectiveness with the “futility” of art and poetry, whose nihilism and skepticism also ridicule the optimism in the progress of science and technology. Meanwhile, with the abstract imagination in scientific conjectures, and with all the detours, mistakes, and bizarrely-failed experiments in the history of science, he reflected on the so-called creativity and experimentation in art. Shen Shaomin reiterates the spiritual significance of “futility”, “imagination” and “possibility” as a kind of romantic ambition and a whimsical and unparalleled tenderness with his consistent concepts and dialectics.
Shen Shaomin’s Brief History of Science is also a discussion of ideals, a promise to human’s future, the “futility” of meaning and the reflection on “consumption”. Ultimately, in the artistic imagination, this personal brief history of science, this proactive futility delineates a romantic, lyrical, useless portrait of a poet preventing the future from dying in “utility”.
Cui Cancan, Curator