All posts filed under: Art

On the First Uyghur Contemporary Art Show

The first Uyghur contemporary art exhibition opened at the Xinjiang Contemporary Art Museum on May 16. The opening was attended by several hundred people from across the province, including most of the represented artists. Since the majority of the painters were teachers or professors, many leading administrators from local universities were also present. Aside from them and a few Han painters from local art schools that the museum’s leading curator, Zeng Chunkai, had invited for the opening, nearly everyone was Uyghur. Even a famous Uyghur public intellectual, Yalkun Rozi, came and praised the artists – although he clearly didn’t understand contemporary art. Everyone I spoke with was thrilled by the opening. Several viewers were amazed to see Uyghurs given voice in a professional contemporary art space. Just seeing their work on the wall was a major thing. The artists I spoke with felt as though the exhibition — which will last until June 16 — was a turning point in the Uyghur contemporary art scene. To them it presaged greater recognition and further development outside of Xinjiang and into the world. Actually the exhibition …

The Blind Voice of the New Silk Road

Perhatjan performing in the second segment of the Voice of the Silk Road  This week was the screening of the seventh segment of the first round of The Voice of the Silk Road – a show that hundreds of thousands of Uyghurs watch every Friday night at 8 pm local time on Xinjiang TV Channel 9. People like the contest because they can watch their favorite performers joke around with each other; they can see people they know perform or imagine themselves performing in their place. Uyghurs see themselves trying on a performance mode popularized by mainstream English and Chinese-language versions of the show, but instead of English or Chinese pop ballads and American and (largely) Han stories of unrecognized talent, on this show they see the reverse. They largely see Uyghur folk songs, classical muqam and pop music; and they mostly hear Uyghur stories of personal triumph. The Voice of the Silk Road is a celebration of an amateur love for Uyghur music. The contestants sing because they love to sing; they sing because they …

The Art of “Opening-up and Cooperating for the Building of the Silk Road Economic Belt”

It was a busy week in Ürümchi: musicals, archaeology exhibits, art shows, a ComiCon festival, and thousands of visitors from outside the “autonomous” region. Special bus lines were put in place; millions of potted flowers were carefully arranged in sculpted dune patterns; street corners were plastered with giant red billboards which (a la the Shanghai Expo 2010) featured a dancing cartoon named Heavenly Horse Star (Tianma Xingqi), the slogan: “Opening-up and Cooperating for the Building of the Silk Road Economic Belt,” and the logo for the fourth China-Eurasia Trade Expo. According to an official press release, people from 60 countries participated in the events. National leaders such as Kazakhstan’s new Prime Minister Karim Masimov and the Kyrgyz Prime Minister Djoomart Otorbaev came for high level transportation and trade talks. If the projected 200,000 attendees actually came to check out the displays of industry, development and “person-to-person” communication than the event made 10 million yuan from the sale of 50 yuan door tickets alone. One of the most important slogans for the expo (floating above a …

“Encounter on the Silk Road” at the 2014 Xinjiang Art Biennale

There were a lot of people at the International Expo Center on July 20, 2014, the last day of the Xinjiang Art Biennale. The massive complex next to a giant Buddha and Hilton hotel on the northeast side of the city echoed with the sounds of an original score by Philip Glass called “Encounter on the Silk Road.” The exhibition was heavy on spectacle. Giant video screens, paintings and sculptures drew the largely Han crowd into massive spaces lit by natural light. Smartphone cameras were often raised against the intensity of actually looking at the mesmerizing objects that called the viewer to contemplate the way contemporary Xinjiang is “a land of many colors.” True to this theme, many of the pieces on display were both diverse and provocative. Although there was a smattering of the usual pantheon of Chinese avant garde works on display and much of the video art seemed to be from Bulgaria and Italy, many of the pieces were specific to the region. As the deputy director of the Xinjiang Ministry of …