artists & participants
CURRENT: Contemporary Art from Scotland is a four-phase eighteen-month contemporary art exhibition and forum programme at Shanghai Himalayas Museum that showcases for the first time in China the distinctiveness of contemporary art made in Scotland, its grassroots spirit and its keen debates with the social and political dimensions of culture.
The programme is a collaboration between Shanghai Himalayas Museum and Cooper Gallery, Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design, University of Dundee and organised in partnership with the British Council. It is part of the 2015 UK–China Year of Cultural Exchange.
CURRENT is co-curated by Sophia Hao and Wang Nanming.
The present is the only moment that ever matters. Under this apparent simplicity, the past and the future are rescinded, and in their wake, only this perpetually cogent moment is perceived and acknowledged.
Playing off its Chinese title "Untimely" and drawing upon Roland Barthes's succinct aphorism, "The contemporary is the untimely," CURRENT questions the political, social and economic discourses that contest this present moment and its apparition as culture.
Immersed in the excessive flow of money, goods and people that constitute the inflating transnational bubble, the "contemporary" revokes the multiplicity of history in favour of a single all-encompassing image: Now. With this grandiose claim that only this moment is essential, the "contemporary" acts as the crucial fiction for indexing how culture is valued, exchanged and consumed. It is this fiction that privileges the "contemporary" as the only ground capable of legitimising the spectrum of theoretical positions and critical observations, determining what is relevant and, of course, valuable.
In navigating the flux of the transnational, the "contemporary" offers an affective register for defining a fiction of unity. This is inscribed in the transnational perception of Chinese contemporary art. After exploding onto the international scene, Chinese contemporary art transmogrified from a plurality of practices into an identifiable "aesthetic regime" by the use of "contemporary" as its stabilising prefix. Through showing contemporary artworks from Scotland in China, CURRENT brings this fictive function of the "contemporary" into sharp relief.
To provoke a sustained critique on the "contemporary," CURRENT holds these two images of the "contemporary" in proximity, revealing, in the words of Barthes, an "untimely" and displaced temporality. Un-anchored from their social and cultural context, these two iterations of the "contemporary" are remediated under the hypothetical universality of the transnational. In this geographical and discursive move, CURRENT challenges how the "contemporary" functions and ascribes legitimacy.
Showcasing artworks by artists of different generations, CURRENT emphasises the complexity of practices thriving in Scotland. Defined by originality and risk-taking this complexity resists, subverts and transforms how art and culture are stereotypically seen, valued and understood on the international stage.
Including solo exhibitions by Bruce McLean, Poster Club (Anne-Marie Copestake, Charlie Hammond, Tom O'Sullivan, Nicolas Party, Ciara Phillips and Michael Stumpf), Edgar Schmitz, Ross Sinclair, Lucy Skaer and Corin Sworn, CURRENT also presents seminal British artists' video works of the 1970s & 1980s from the REWIND research project at DJCAD and a moving-image screening programme of emerging artists' works from Scotland.
The two opening exhibitions exemplify the curatorial ethos of CURRENT. Surplus Cameo Decor by Edgar Schmitz is a discursive process of artistic and critical dialogue, whilst Wheat, Mud, Machine illuminates the experimental and collaborative spirit of Poster Club which embodies the plurality and complexity of contemporary cultural practice.
Located at a critical intersection of European and Chinese perspectives, the CURRENT exhibition programme is refracted through the Hubs and Fictions Shanghai Forum Series (co-curated by Sophia Hao and Edgar Schmitz). Investigating how the material manifestations of the "global transnational" are irretrievably intertwined with their own fictions of "the contemporary," the forums explore which cultural and political realities determine how multiple contemporaneities are instituted and disseminated. The inaugural forum examines the promise of institutionality and discusses the limitations of contemporary art infrastructures.
Poster Club are Anne-Marie Copestake, Charlie Hammond, Tom OSullivan, Nicolas Party, Ciara Phillips and Michael Stumpf. Poster Club have exhibited at: Martha Street Studio, Winnipeg (2014), Dundee Contemporary Arts (2013), Platform, Glasgow (2013), The Duchy, Glasgow (2013), Glasgow Print Studio (2011) and Eastside Projects, Birmingham (2011).