SAN FRANCISCO, CA.- Yerba Buena Center for the Arts
(YBCA) presents Keywords School at YBCA in its first installation on the West Coast (Sep 26-Nov 15, 2009). Keywords School at YBCA is the San Francisco iteration of an interactive multimedia installation by Chinese artist Xu Tan that was launched in 2006 and has been previously presented in London, Stockholm, Guangzhou, New York City and at the 53rd Venice Biennale. While Xu Tan is in residence at YBCA, he plans to hold classes in YBCAs Gallery 3 and teach Cantonese keywords to the public and students from local universities. The classes generate additional keywords that help reveal the opinions and attitudes of a western audience towards the current status of China and its role in the global environment. Keywords School at YBCA is the first exhibition in a series of installations at YBCA titled PAUSE: Practice and Exchange. The series, curated by adjunct curator Julio César Morales, turns YBCAs Gallery 3 into a laboratory where artists are commissioned to develop, experiment and translate new and existing bodies of visual artwork.
Keywords School at YBCA, through its multiple installations throughout the world, has become a global archive of language created by peoples perceptions of Chinaone of the fastest developing and increasingly influential countries in the world. San Francisco audiences have a unique opportunity to contribute to the archive through a series of classes at YBCA with Xu Tan who will be residence at YBCA during the first month of the installation, says Julio César Morales, YBCAs Adjunct Curator.
When Keywords School at YBCA is not in session, gallery audiences are invited to interact with the keywords, which are presented by means of video projections and computer stations equipped with laptops, video cameras, and Internet connections. The goal is to have gallery visitors pronounce the keywords as illustrated in drawings and video clips, to ask questions of the artist through an on-line forum and message board, and to leave comments.
Xu Tans work deals with the hidden motivations and intentions of individuals through a high-tech analysis of their vocabulary. Searching for Keywords, the initial name of the project, began with interviews of different groups of people who are active in Chinese society. The recorded interviews were then carefully analyzed and 100 keywords were identified based on meaning (social values), frequency (repetition), sensitivity (political) and popularity (trendiness). New words are added based on each iteration of the School. These keywords reveal the values and motivations of contemporary Chinese society, they give a pulse of the current social climate and present an insight into the collective social consciousness of China.
Xu Tan was born in Wuhan, Hubei Province in 1957 and currently lives in Shanghai and Guangzhou. In the early 1990s he joined the Big Tail Elephant Group in Guangzhou. The aim of his work is to develop critical strategies for negotiating the rapidly changing economic and cultural life in China. Xu Tan also draws his inspiration from the teachings of philosopher Chuang-Tzu (circa 250 BC). Successor to Lao Tzu and a foremost proponent of Taoism, Chuang-Tzu presumed that no matter how alike two things are, a difference between them can always be found and, conversely, no matter how different two things are, one can find a similarity between them. Objective similarities and differences do not justify any particular way of distinguishing between things. His work has been shown around the world including P.S.1 in New York, Venice Biennale, Berlin Biennial, Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art in Brisbane, Australia, Guangzhou Triennial, Taipei Biennial, De Appel in Amsterdam. Recent solo shows were held at the DAAD Gallery in Berlin, at the Vitamin Creative Space in Guangzhou, at BizArt is Shanghai and the 2009 Venice Biennial.