The Qiuzhuang project – A dispersed museum project

Posted June 4th, 2013 under China, Contemporary Art

Qiuzhuang Project
Over the last months, the Chinese artist Li Mu (Qiuzhuang, 1974) has been
developing an art project in his home village Qiuzhuang in China together with the
collection of the Van Abbemuseum and Art Hub Asia. Qiuzhuang is a small village of about 1.000
people, approximately 800 kilometers south of Beijing.

Li Mu and the Van Abbemuseum first came into contact during the Shanghai World
Expo when Li Mu was part of the Eindhoven-Shanghai exchange project Double
Infinity organized together with Arthub Asia, a curatorial platform that works in Asia
and in the world facilitating and producing challenging projects. Since then, the
artist has been involved with the museum and visited Eindhoven in 2011. After that
visit, Mu proposed bringing works of the museum’s collection to the people of
Qiuzhuang. The idea slowly developed and when the difficulties of transport and
insurance were clear, the museum and the artist agreed to investigate making copies
of certain collection works and displaying the copies around the village. The first
concrete steps were taken with the opening of a library in February 2013. Soon
afterwards, copies of Sol LeWitt’s Untitled (Wall Structure) (1972) which were hung
up in the village. Mu is also busy creating copies of works by Dan Flavin, Richard
Long, Andy Warhol, Daniel Buren, Carl Andre and John Körmeling and videos by Ulay
and Abramovic will be displayed over the next months. Now the project is ready to
be shared with a broader public.

Li Mu reacts: “I always have faith in the power of culture. I hope that through art, the
villagers can understand the outside world, other people, different lifestyles and
values.”

Charles Esche, director of the Van Abbemuseum: “After meeting Li Mu, I was struck
by his passion for the possibilities of art to transform expectations. As a museum,
we can offer our knowledge and access to works while he brings a knowledge of his
home environment and a sensitive feeling for how these western works may be
received. For us it is part of a wider development in which a typical modern art
collection tries to come to terms with the social and cultural changes taking place
around us. I believe we are extending the potential of the collection through this
action and learning how to address contemporary developments.”

Davide Quadrio says ”Despite the interest of the international art world is still mainly
directed toward Beijing or the bigger cities in China, Arthub Asia’s desire of
empowering communication via the arts through unexpected projects, sees in Li Mu
a great example of an artist exploring ways to return to his roots and expand his
work back to his community”

With the Qiuzhuang project, Li Mu wants to explain to his family and relatives what
he does and what art could bring to the people from his hometown. Classical
modernist works might seem far from the experience of this new art audience and
Mu is recording how they respond and what happens to the works in this new
environment. Do they stay as art in our sense or do they take on different capacities
and values.
Mu also seeks to explore the history of his village, since it is rather blur and no
documentation before 1900 can be found. The history has never been recorded in
writing, simply since no one ever cared about it, nor about the future. As today’s life
is changing in rural China, Mu wants to retrieve the history of his hometown and
make it available in his library and to the villagers, hoping it will trigger new ways of
thinking in the people.

Qiuzhuang Project – a dispersed museum project
The opening of the library

In February 2013, the library was opened. The library is a public space that connects
the locals with the outside world and helps establish a reciprocal understanding.
Through the library, Mu can spread his knowledge and experience gradually, let the
villagers understand him, and acknowledge the next steps of the project. The library
is open every Saturday and Sunday, free for all.

Mu’s retired elementary school teacher, employed as librarian, holds regular
activities, including displays of art films and documentaries. Since the villagers have
no experience with libraries and art, it was strange for them at first but they get
accustomed to it and the children seem to love it.

As with the FREE SOL LEWITT project initiated by SUPERFLEX in 2010 in the Van
Abbemuseum, Mu also created copies of the work Untitled (Wall Structure) (1972) by
Sol LeWitt. These copies are distributed amongst people in his village and used in
everyday life.

Qiuzhuang Project – a dispersed museum project
A villager in Qiuzhuang with Sol LeWitt’s Untitled (Wall Structure) (1972)

On walls along the roads in the village, Mu painted Sol LeWitt’s Wall Drawing works.
Richard Long’s Wood Circle (1977) has been copied in the public space with leaves
and branches, the most common materials by which Mu wanted this piece to “return”
from a museum space to nature. Ulay and Abramovic’s performance video is shown
in the grocery store in the village, a place where people gather.

The project will continue until July 2013 and the library will remain as a permanent
project.

Li Mu
Li Mu was born in 1974 in Qiuzhuang in the Jiangsu Province in China. He graduated
from the Suzhou Academy of Art and Design in 1995 and the Academy of Art of
Tsinghua University, Beijing in 2001. He has had numerous group exhibitions
throughout China and a solo exhibition at the Zendai Museum of Modern Art,
Shanghai. Early on, Li worked mainly with video and photography, but over the last
two years he has taken a new direction that cannot be easily categorized. Many of
his recent works are more process-oriented actions that are very hard to distinguish
from the rest of his daily activities. These ideas and actions are presented in a
variety of different formats: as objects of documentation, piles of very detailed
drawings in journals, photographs and writing on his blog (http://www.iamlimu.org).

- Arthub Asia also announces the book “Qiuzhuang Project– a dispersed museum project by Li Mu; The Making of Meeting”, a publication disclosing the aftermath of a four-day symposium held in Bangkok in 2009 and addressing the first seven years of Arthub Asia’s programs, and the appointment of Charles Esche as the fourth Director of the organisation.

The Making of Meeting
In August 2009, cultural practitioners from around Asia and their Arthub Asia-instigated, match-made peers from the rest of the world came together to discuss and reflect on the dynamic, ongoing echoes of the now-defunct Silk Road trading route and its multiple dimensions. As a four-day symposium, “The Making of the New Silk Roads” aimed to reassess the complex interconnections within Asia’s cultural and artistic spectrum at the beginning of the 21st century. This book summarizes the concerns and thoughts the participants shared, while reflecting on the performative format of Meeting the symposium aimed to take. The book’s four chapters look into the personalities, scenography, performance and documentation behind the alternative scheme of meeting that was put to the test in Bangkok and that lies at the core of Arthub Asia’s activities in Asia and worldwide.

With texts by Arahmaiani, Defne Ayas, Zoe Butt, David Cotterrell, Onno Dirker, Samah Hijawi, Jiang Jun, Davide Quadrio, Seph Rodney, Lina Saneh, Veronica Sekules, Els Silvrants-Barclay & Hakan Topal

Edited & conceptualized by Els Silvrants-Barclay
Design by Indianen
Published by MER. Paper Kunsthalle

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