Critics’ Picks

View of “Permanent Migrants,” 2009.


“Permanent Migrants”

Inheritance: Shenzhen
104 Block 10, Hetang Community, Huaxia Rd., Nanshan District
December 7–February 15

Located between a village and a shopping mall, “Permanent Migrants,” the inaugural exhibition in this pop-up alternative space, appropriately reflects the conditions of contemporary art production in Shenzhen throughout its brief history. A retrospective of an entire city should be a daunting task, and indeed this project is far from complete. Nevertheless, the artists who made Shenzhen their home, however briefly, seem to share a particular sensibility, veering between the public and the private in an attempt to define and intervene in the urban condition.

Work exhibited by many of the best-known artists in the exhibition will be familiar to international audiences: Yang Yong’s portraits of prostitutes and construction workers, Jiang Zhi’s light-based photography, Liu Chuang’s social sculpture bought from new immigrants, and Christian Jankowski’s plastic-guitar-as-stereo project. The exhibition excels most where it rediscovers early and marginal work by artists known for their outsider status, as with Bai Xiaoci’s slide show of local domestic spaces or Chu Yun’s light boxes consisting of his own possessions photographed with the visual rhetoric of billboard advertisements. This project marks a necessary rehabilitation of southern China as a distinct cultural territory; though the majority of artists in the exhibition have since moved to Beijing or back to their home cities, the work they produced in Shenzhen maintains a pioneering character within the context of this disturbingly mobile region.