Text by Anita Yin
Venice Biennale (la Biennale di Venezia), held every two years since 1895, has become a “weather vane” for global modern art. Along with a theme exhibition organized by specially-invited curators, this year’s event was highlighted by national pavilions presented by each participating country.
Commissioned by China’s Ministry of Culture, China International Exhibition Company chose Transfiguration by Wang Chunchen from many submissions for China Pavilion, which features concept installations by seven Chinese artists.
The word “transfiguration” first appeared in English in the Bible, describing Jesus’ transformation before ascension to heaven. Eventually, the word evolved into a more general definition referring to any transformation or metamorphosis.In the 1980s, American philosopher and art theorist Arthur Danto titled a book The Transfiguration of the Commonplace (1984). Thereafter, a word previously reserved for classical art history became a contemporary concept – a term embodying contrasting connotations of the traditional and contemporary. Its root includes “form,”“image,” perfectly complementary to the title of this biennale, “The Encyclopedic Palace,” which aims to promote the spirit of “the dream of the universal, all-embracing image of the human being.”
According to Curator Wang, “Transfiguration” echoes certain distinct characteristics of contemporary international society.China is not alone in experiencing massive transformation; the whole world is undergoing radical change due to globalization.One unique feature of art is its proclivity to reflect and react to changes of an era, to exhibit the manifestation of human beings’ dream through new images, to embody the change of presence, and to develop the constructs of visual civilization and knowledge of the human being.
Transfiguration in the China Pavilion represents a geographical journey of Chinese contemporary art and its expression of culture, moving from China to Europe and Italy, joining all countries to showcase the contemporary world of diversity. At an unprecedented speed, globalization has spread progress of human civilization throughout the entire world, including the arts. Chinese artists have been affected as much as any of their counterparts elsewhere.