The Far Near: An Art Journey between East and West
Opening: 2011.5.28 AM10:30
Venue: Hubei Provincial Academy of Art Museum(No.368 Zhongshan Road,Wu Chang District, Wu Han City)
Organizers: Chu Art Organization, Artists Association of Hubei Province
Co-organizers: Istituto Italiano di Cultura di Pechino, Hubei Provincial Academy of Art Museum, China-Italy Artists Studio
Artists: Matteo Basilé, Davide Sebastian, Tommaso Cascella, Ma Lin(Ethnic Chinese)
Media: Oil on canvas, Image, Composite materials
Curator: Dominique·Lora (Italy),Zhuo Shuang
Artistic Director: Zhang Zhan
Coordinator: Chunbing Liu, Yuqing Hu
The Far Near:
An Art Journey between
East and West
For centuries the “grandeur” and glory of Western nations was measured according to the number of conquered and annexed territories. Expeditions throughout the globe were undertaken by great explorers such as British Captain James Cook who, together with a crew of cartographers, extensively documented the exploration of unknown lands by the means of maps and illustrated surveys. Similarly, during the French Revolution Napoleon conquered the world with an army of soldiers, wise men and artists that were respectively commissioned to conquest, interpret and immortalize his victories and discoveries. During the twentieth century, although on a more individual plan, anthropologists and art historians such as Levy Strauss and Aby Warburg participated in expeditions that were crucial for the understanding of social and cultural history. Like their predecessor, those pioneers extensively documented their experiences over virgin sites and unknown tribes by tracing human and geographical maps, using their ability as writers and draftsmen to explain and illustrate unusual habits and customs in the attempt to penetrate the soul of “otherness”. Those journeys have inspired many artists to wander throughout the world in search of a new Terra Incognita (unknown land) to uncover.
In a time in which geographical boundaries are no longer specifics and the transnational circulation of ideas is made possible by the exchange of logos and goods, we often refer to the terms crossbreeding and multiculturalism without being really able to grasp their human implications and semiological values. In such a context, contemporary art represents a free and necessary narrative space where the intellectual bravery of both artists and audiences can unflinchingly unfold, decompose the real and investigate the tensions inherent to everyday life. Therefore, vision and imagination represent the alternative key to a broader understanding of the human condition in the fabrication of both individual and social identity. In other words, as the world increasingly turns into a standardized reality, the only way to defend diversity and local characters is to ask the artists to elaborate a global culture.
During the past two decades there has been a tremendous upsurge of interest in contemporary Asian Art. As a new image of the world is being generated China has become a global player in the aesthetic debate. In such a context, Western artists seem to be often insulated and isolated from the cultural developments
which are happening on the East side of the planet. Thus, following the “open door trend” of the early 1980s, where the ideas and aesthetics of modern art penetrated the Asian cultural world, a number of international artists feel today necessary to go against the current and investigate boundaries, similarities and edges at the ambiguous and shifting site that galvanizes Orient and Occident.
“The Far Near” was born from the desire to provide an international platform to showcase artworks that reprocess cultural and social paradigms and where art is addressed as the receptacle for a cohesive representation of contemporary living experience. Here, the traditional and common perception of East and West are re-examined under the artistic kaleidoscope aimed at exploring both the social function of art and the value of transit(ion) in researching the Self. If the artist is the beholder and the witness of an encounter, of the contamination of diverse cultures, art embodies the fierce oracle and the unique vehicle to overstep and re-negotiate the tensions inherent to the globalization process that is today forcing religious, economic, political and cultural minorities into the illusion of a neutral and unified community. Ma Lin, Tommaso Cascella, Matteo Basilé and Davide Sebastian share the sense that globalization is slowly obliterating all form of Genius Loci (local genius) and direct their research towards the “elsewhere” and the “otherwise” that lies deep down our inner-self as the sole manner to contrast the unpredictable and totally accidental aspects of existence. As chameleons, they move towards other directions, re-questioning their language only to multiply it according to the territory they are exploring, leading their historical and iconographic matrix to be enriched without being dispersed. Whereas Asian countries are somehow redesigning the world balance, Lin, Cascella, Basilé and Sebastian have conveyed their interests towards and between East and West, working on the prism-like space of their own imaginary to produce dreams still to be realized, objects to be invented and journeys to be undertaken…
Davide Sebastian’s photographic works obliterate the antagonism between past and present, imaginary and real.
Through visual sequences that blur the borders between documentation and fiction the artist creates a spiritual laboratory where to experiment rather than simply “represent”, opening a complex system of sliding doors in which the traditional notions of true and false are dismantled and recombined into fluctuating and possible experiences. In “Future Memories”, Sebastian stages a memory theater where the monumental effigy of Italian Founding Fathers, who fought for the principles of Unification and Sovereign People, are reincarnated into living portraits. Contemporary artists frequently recur to (anti)heroic characters that symbolize courage and fortitude in the struggle for life, to express the feeling of being helpless in a world over which we have no control. Heroes are usually chosen from recent historical figures (JFK, Mao) or from contemporary fictional and imaginary literature (Batman, Spider-man). Instead, Sebastian refers to romantic heroes from the Nineteenth century “Risorgimento” period. Patriots such as Giuseppe Garibaldi, Gaetano Sacchi or Carlo Mayr are brought back to life as living performers, wrapped and placed among the debris of recent environmental disasters (i.e. 2009 L’Aquila earthquake) as to “reveal through concealment” (David Bourdon) the common and global perception of a wrecked and confusing world. Despite their petrified body, those heroes’ lively and vigorous gaze reminds us of our origins and history, inducing a ray of hope in a time where essence and appearance constantly mutate. Sebastian remixes his own imaginary, juxtaposes times and styles, samples past memories and present experiences. In doing so, the artist transposes his visions into a holistic plan as to indicate that human experience cannot be perceived anymore as the center but rather as the sacred place where traditions and identity, social codes and cultural matrices must convey towards a new system of spiritual and material culture. The “Far Near” is permeated with the idea of journey and is the result of the encounter between two different realities. Ma Lin, Tommaso Cascella, Matteo Basilé and Davide Sebastian are experienced wanderers whose transnational porosity moves between two worlds in the endeavor to trace new and possible ways. Fortunately, the artists do not follow generals and armies, they are instead cartographers working for their own sake, curious of a reciprocal knowledge, aiming at retracing the antique roads of silk and spices in the attempt to re-tangle the people’s wisdom.
The “Far Near” is permeated with the idea of journey and is the result of the encounter between two different realities. Ma Lin, Tommaso Cascella, Matteo Basilé and Davide Sebastian are experienced wanderers whose transnational porosity moves between two worlds in the endeavor to trace new and possible ways. Fortunately, the artists do not follow generals and armies, they are instead cartographers working for their own sake, curious of a reciprocal knowledge, aiming at retracing the antique roads of silk and spices in the attempt to re-tangle the people’s wisdom.