The New Normal: China, Art, and 2017
2017.3.19 - 2017.7.9
Great Hall, Central Gallery, Nave and Long Gallery
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The Ullens Center for Contemporary Art (UCCA) is proud to present “The New Normal: China, Art, and 2017,” a large-scale exhibition running from 19 March to 9 July 2017 with new and recent works by 23 artists and groups from China and beyond. Held in the Great Hall, Central Gallery, Long Gallery, and Nave, “The New Normal” takes China’s evolving national condition vis-à-vis the rising backlash against globalization on other continents as a point of departure, interrogating the efficacy of art—as a medium for both expression and action—in responding to a fragile and unpredictable present. Continuing UCCA’s ongoing commitment to emerging artists as well as its practice of mounting a center-wide survey of recent developments once every four years, first with “Breaking Forecast: 8 Key Figures of China’s New Generation of Artists” in 2009 and followed by “ON | OFF: China’s Young Artists in Concept and Practice” in 2013, “The New Normal” explores the state of art today against the backdrop of the unprecedented social realities of 2017. The exhibition is organized by UCCA curators Guo Xi, Yang Zi, Alvin Li, and Wenfei Wang working with UCCA Director Philip Tinari.

Coined by Carl Schmitt and expanded by Giorgio Agamben, a “state of exception”—the exhibition’s Chinese title—refers to a political situation in which the normal laws and regulations of a society are abruptly suspended, replaced by temporary conditions that in turn become a new status quo. States of exception have been imposed at moments of crisis throughout modern history. Crisis today is constant, as ideals of freedom, equality, and openness, once held by some as universal values, give way to mass shootings, aborted ceasefires, violated norms, and tainted elections. In 2015, the Chinese leadership introduced “the new normal,” a way of talking about economic growth rates that, while lower than during the exuberant years of the early 2000s, continue to trump those of most other major economies. China’s assertively capitalist, internationalist response to these increasingly acute dynamics—recently typified by President Xi Jinping’s address to the World Economic Forum in Davos—might also be considered a “state of exception,” one that runs parallel to the new patterns of globalization that inform artistic cosmopolitanism today.

Designed by the multidisciplinary firm Li Hu/OPEN Architecture, the exhibition’s layout gives each artist a discrete room to present his or her works. The space outside these pavilions is dimmed, echoing the (often ominous) topics explored. A linear pathway determined by the works’ narrative cues traces a temporal progression of historicized forms, present conditions, and speculative futures, with the year 2017 as the ineluctable, implicit core throughout. The underlying proposition of this format—a constellation of diverse, engaged practices presented independently, but always in dialogue—is the possibility that these various geographic and temporal nodes might converge into a single, holistic state of exception, through which audiences can consider their social, geopolitical, and ideological milieux.

During the exhibition, the UCCA Nave will transform into the “Pavilion of Exception,” a public space and reading room with an expansive collection of books selected by the exhibition curators, participating artists, and collaborating scholars. Artists, writers, and researchers will contribute to a rich slate of public programs around themes of technology, political economy, and literature, among others. These programs take the varied forms of lecture performances, conversations, workshops, screenings, talks, music and dance performances, and theatrical stagings, giving visitors more points of access to engage the ideas that inspired the exhibition and artists.

As UCCA CEO May Xue observes, “‘The New Normal: China, Art, and 2017’ marks the beginning of UCCA’s tenth anniversary year. Surrounding the exhibition’s curatorial concept, and working with the Center’s social mission in mind, UCCA has developed a wide range of promotions, docent-led tours, members’ programs, public programs, children’s educational programs, merchandise, and publications in order to present this project to the widest possible public. The aim here, as in all UCCA programming, is to promote the development of contemporary culture, presenting an inclusive, cosmopolitan vision of China in the world at a time of sweeping transformation. ‘The New Normal’ has been made possible with support from across society, an affirmation of the Center’s exhibition program and operational model throughout the past decade. We would like to take this opportunity to offer deepest gratitude to founders Guy and Myriam Ullens, UCCA staff, patrons, sponsors, partners, and all who have made outstanding contributions to the realization of this exhibition.”

The participating artists are Chen Chenchen, Cui Jie, Gao Lei, Guo Xi, Lawrence Lek, Li Jingxiong, Li Qi, Liang Ban, Liao Fei, Amy Lien & Enzo Camacho, Liu Yefu, Ma Jianfeng, Ma Haijiao, Sophia Al-Maria, Miao Ying, Max Hooper Schneider, Shen Xin, Wu Tsang, Wang Guangxu, Lantian Xie, Yao Qingmei, Zhang Ruyi, and Zhu Changquan.




Download “The New Normal: China, Art, and 2017” press release. 


About the Exhibition

“The New Normal” is organized by UCCA curators Guo Xi, Yang Zi, Alvin Li, and Wenfei Wang working with UCCA Director Philip Tinari. Li Hu/OPEN Architecture are the exhibition architects.

The exhibition has been made possible with the lighting technology support of Hongri Lighting. Exclusive audio support is provided by GENELEC. Shanghai HeLu Culture Communication Co., Ltd. is the new media art production partner. The exhibition is generously supported by Richard and Michelle Jeschelnig, Linyao Kiki Liu, and the Zeng Fanzhi Foundation for Art and Education. Special support comes from Towering Capital (toweringcapital.cn) and Zhao Xu. YT CREATIVE MEDIA is the lead media partner. Exhibition-related public programs are sponsored by West Bund Art & Design. Cc Foundation is the publication sponsor. Artist project sponsorship comes from ARTCARE. Li Huina provided sponsorship for the educational programs. Exhibition-related merchandise sponsorship comes from YIYO. The exhibition is supported by United Art Consultancy, Vanguard Gallery, MadeIn Gallery, Don Gallery, Magician Space, LEO XU PROJECTS, White Space Beijing, PIFO Gallery, HDM Gallery, de Sarthe Gallery, and Zhang Yuling & Tim Crowley. Insurance support comes from AXA Art Insurance. Airfare is supported by Wokee and Hi Guides. JMGO provided support for video equipment. Headphone support comes from Sudio AB. Hotel support comes from Tangram Beijing Yan Xiang Hotel. The exhibition opening events partners are Château la Commanderie Pomerol, Maison FLO Beijing & FLO Prestige, and Jing-A Brewing Co. Didi Premium is the exclusive transportation partner.


About the Curators

Philip Tinari has served as director of UCCA since late 2011. In his five-year tenure, he has mounted more than sixty exhibitions and organized a wide range of public programs and development activities. Prior to joining UCCA, he was founding editor of LEAP, the internationally distributed, bilingual art magazine published by the Modern Media Group. He is a contributing editor of Artforum, having previously served as founding editor of that magazine’s online Chinese edition, artforum.com.cn. Tinari was named a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum in 2015 and to the Public Intellectuals Program of the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations in 2016. He holds degrees from Duke and Harvard is currently a D.Phil. candidate in art history at Oxford. He is co-curator, with Alexandra Munroe, of the exhibition “Art and China after 1989: Theater of the World,” which opens at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in October 2017.


Guo Xi joined UCCA in 2014 and is currently the center’s curator. A member of UCCA’s Exhibition Department, Guo Xi has rich experience in curation, management, and coordination. She graduated from the Central Academy of Fine Arts with a master’s degree in art museum studies in 2014. She served as assistant curator for a diverse range of exhibitions, including “Zeng Fanzhi: Parcours,” “New Directions: Nadim Abbas,” and “John Gerrard: Power.Play” in 2016; “Liu Wei: Colors” in 2015; and “Polit-Sheer-Form: Fitness for All” in 2014.


Yang Zi received his bachelor’s degree in philosophy and religious studies from Nanjing University and is currently a publications and exhibitions coordinator for UCCA. Yang Zi has worked in art criticism and curation for nearly ten years, starting with his participation in the YCCA project at UCCA in 2008, which introduced him to art criticism and writing. Prior to joining UCCA, Yang Zi was an editor of LEAP, and he has written extensively for a range of publications, including LEAP, Artforum China, Art Bank, and Art Time, among others. He acted as executive editor on a series of UCCA catalogues, including Wang Yin: The Gift, Liu Wei: Colors, Xu Zhen: A MadeIn Company Production, and Zeng Fanzhi: Parcours. His curatorial projects include “La Chair” (A+ Contemporary, Shanghai, 2016) and “Secret Chamber” (am Art Space, Shanghai, 2016).


Alvin Li is the English editor of UCCA. He studied philosophy at Connecticut College and has been working as a writer and translator since 2013. Particularly interested in gender variance and queerness, as well as their implications for community practices and social relations, Li has been organizing queer film festivals, monthly screenings, and community-oriented events in Shanghai for three years. Prior to joining UCCA, he worked as an editor of LEAP. He is a regular contributor to a range of publications, including Frieze, ArtReview Asia, Ocula, Randian, Artforum China, and others.


Wenfei Wang received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Nanjing University. She specializes in visual theory and is particularly dedicated to interdisciplinary research methods. She is a regular contributor to Artforum China, LEAP, China Art Weekly, Art Monthly, Ray Sight, and Southern Weekend, among others. Wang is also a prolific translator who has worked on titles such as Démocratie, dans quel état? (SASS Press, 2015), and The Virtual Window (forthcoming). She is the co-author of World Film Locations: Shanghai (Intellect, 2014.)


 About OPEN Architecture

OPEN Architecture is an international team of architects, designers, and collaborators from a range of different disciplines. Their practice includes urban design, architecture, interior design, and the production of strategies in the context of the new challenges of our time. Founded by Li Hu and Huang Wenjing in New York, OPEN established a Beijing office in 2008. Completed and ongoing projects include the Garden School/Beijing No. 4 High School, Fangshan Campus; Gehua Youth and Cultural Center; Pingshan Performing Arts Center, Shenzhen; and West Bund Oil Tank Art Park, Shanghai. OPEN has been widely recognized for their innovative works. Recent accolades include Interior Design’s Best of the Year Award, 2016, winner; London Design Museum’s Design of the Year, 2015, nomination; World Architecture Awards for Chinese Architecture, 2014, winner; China Architecture Media Awards, 2012, winner; as well as invitations to participate in international exhibitions such as the inaugural Chicago Architecture Biennial, 2015; and the Venice Biennale, 2014.

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Max Hooper Schneider
  • Accidental Menagerie (detail)
  • 2015
  • Mixed media, acrylic trays, polymer resin, aluminum structure, custom hardware
  • 304.8 x 274.3 x 38.1 cm
  • Courtesy the artist
Works in the Exhibition
 / 6 1
    • Gao Lei
    • Messiah - Fusion Dream of < J > < Z-772 > < 5 >
    • 2017
    • Aluminum basin, turbo water gun, syringe, bronze, wooden umbrella handle, stainless steel, hemp rope, disposable carpet, wooden staircase, rolling gate, hanger, belt
    • Dimensions variable
    • Li Qi
    • Jungle
    • 2017
    • Office table, file cabinet, plant, single-channel digital video, color, sound
    • Dimensions variable
    • Zhu Changquan
    • Jump from the Past
    • 2017
    • Two-channel video, light box, found objects
    • 6'
    • Li Jingxiong
    • Untitled
    • 2016
    • Styrofoam, metal boards, paint, metal steel frames, sponge pads
    • 150 x 220 cm x 7;200 x 100 x 120 cm x 4;100 x 200 x 49 cm x 4
    • Courtesy the artist and HDM Gallery
    • Miao Ying
    • Chinternet Plus
    • 2016
    • Multi-channel video, wallpaper
    • Dimensions variable
    • Guo Xi
    • Sanctuary Shop
    • 2017
    • Aluminum, spray paint, video, found objects
    • Dimensions variable
    • Chen Chenchen
    • The Mercy of Not Killing
    • 2017
    • Site-specific installation, mixed media
    • Dimensions variable
    • Ma Haijiao
    • Familial Separatism
    • 2017
    • Three-channel video
    • 11'26''; 8'34'' ; 8'34''
    • Ma Jianfeng
    • X
    • 2017
    • Site-specific installation, mixed media
    • Dimensions variable
    • Liao Fei
    • A Sculpture of the Earth
    • 2015
    • Computers, monitors, steel frames
    • 250 x 38.5 x 31.5 cm
    • Courtesy Pifo Gallery
    • Shen Xin
    • Provocation of the Nightingale
    • 2016-2017
    • Four-channel video installation
    • 22'; 23'; 10'; 21'
    • Liu Yefu
    • Sketch I, Composition I, II, III & IV
    • 2016
    • Multi-channel HD video, color, sound
    • Dimensions variable
    • 21'38''
    • Lantian Xie
    • Metropolitan Hotel No. 1-15
    • 2016
    • Color pencils on paper
    • 47 x 68 cm x 15
    • Courtesy Art Jameel Collection
    • Wu Tsang
    • Shape of a Right Statement
    • 2008
    • HD video
    • 5'00''
    • Sophia Al-Maria
    • Black Friday
    • 2016
    • Digital video projected vertically, color, sound
    • 16'36''
    • Amy Lien & Enzo Camacho
    • 2017
    • Five-channel video, mixed-media installation
    • Dimensions variable
    • Max Hooper Schneider
    • Accidental Menagerie
    • 2015
    • Mixed media, acrylic trays, polymer resin, aluminum structure, custom hardware
    • 304.8 x 274.3 x 38.1 cm
    • Courtesy the artist and Kayne Griffin Corcoran
    • Lawrence Lek
    • Berlin Mirror (2042 Retrospective)
    • 2016
    • Full HD video, stereo sound
    • 11'41''
    • Yao Qingmei
    • Solar Spectrum: The Royal Ballet of the Night 2
    • 2017
    • Video
    • 8'10''
    • Courtesy the artist and Magician Space
    • Zhang Ruyi
    • Density
    • 2016
    • Concrete, iron
    • 29 x 13.2 x 47.8 cm
    • Courtesy the artist and Don Gallery
    • Cui Jie
    • Friendship Building
    • 2017
    • 3D model
    • 31.1 x 28.5 x 50 cm
    • Wang Guangxu
    • Untitled
    • 2017
    • Wood, bamboo
    • 217 x 85 cm
    • Liang Ban
    • A Poet Who Never Saw the Ocean Wrote a Novel about the Ocean
    • 2017
    • Sound installation
    • Dimensions variable
    • 21'
    • Courtesy the artist and de Sarthe Gallery
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