First launched in 1996, the Shanghai Biennale is not only China's most established and influential international biennale of contemporary art, but also one of the most important biennales in Asia.
Curated by Mexican scholar Cuauhtémoc Medina, this year’s edition will revolve around the theme of “Proregress.”
Proregress, among the many language discoveries that emerged from E. E. Cummings’ experiments in poetry, introduced in the 19th section of W ViVa (1931), is a word made of the condensation of progress and regress. As a word made from the combination of progress and regress, Proregress was used to teasingly criticize the Western enlightenment narratives that abide by progressivism, meanwhile suggesting the ambivalence and anxiety of the early 21st century provoked by the transformation and stagnation which firmly contradict both optimists and pessimists alike.
For the Chinese title, the curatorial team chose the concept of “禹步”(Yubu), the basic mystic dance step of the Daoist ritual in ancient China. Chief Curator Medina indicates that this vigorous dance step implies values of artworks and inspirations for mankind, in an era of complexity. He noted, “This is also a way to suggest that, despite the anxieties that these artworks convey, they are all permeated by a creative coming and going of ideas, desires, and concepts. These works illustrate a commitment to transforming our sensibilities into new ways of living, mimicking the manner with which contemporary art and culture confront the complexities of our time.”
The curatorial team believes, “This biennale is devoted to exploring the way contemporary artists discuss and evoke the ambivalent nature of our time. The projects and works this exhibition presents attest to the deep involvement of artists around the world in critically researching the present and the past, in terms of the production of forms of aesthetic knowledge and questioning of the role of culture.”
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