Landscape of Sur- consumption: Super Consumption, Surmounting consumption?

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Landscape of Sur- consumption

Participating Artists:

Chen Shaoxiong
Hong Hao
Shi Yong
Tony Law
Xing Danwen
Yan Lei
Zheng Guogu


Time:10th November – 10th December, 2002

Location:Vitamin Creative Space


Landscape of Sur- consumption

Super Consumption, Surpassing consumption?

By Hu Fang

Act  One  

A Subjective Picture

“It is the biggest shopping center in Asia, which covers 2.8 million square feet. In this one-stand shopping and entertaining center, there are IMAX cinema, supermarket, brand name shops, game city, the youth cultural activity center ….. You name it, they have it. You no longer have to go to other places …”①

Today, we can find anywhere in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou the super shopping centers described in the media.


STREET by Chen Shaoxiong is no doubt a portrayal to our living surroundings. The excitement and loss of the Chinese cities suddenly come out as they are entering the consumption time. Consumption is pervasive. It has permeated the personal lives as well as the public space of the Chinese. In Chen Shaoxiong’s works, the people, being stimulated and tempted by the city, are busy running about blindly.


…And more noisy people

are crowing and queuing in the square, looking up with reverence

at the shining arrogant object that reach the sky. It is the symbol of our greatest love.②

People are waiting for the miracles in the life.

While the people who create miracles charge those who wait for miracles.


According to the French thinker Jean Baudrillard,  “ In daily life, the benefit of consumption is not experienced as the integration of work or producing procedure, but as miracles. What we get from the mass communication is not reality, but the dizziness produced when we are facing the reality.”③


Below the works of Shi Yong MAY FLY HIGHER, we would have a feeling of dizziness. Before that, the “Standard Citizen” image created by Shi Yong has been deeply rooted in the heart of the people. And in this exhibition, his work MAY FLY HIGHER penetrates the psychology/dream world of the standard citizens after the transformation of the consumption society. It indicates the parabolic tendency of subconsciousness and reminds people of a certain unavoidable neuro-atrophy behind the grotesque and gaudy city landscape. While the extreme excitement activated by chemical substances are influencing people’s actions.



So lie down on the air cushion that Shi Yong prepares for us! We are just living safely under the camouflage of this kind of dizziness, just as we are peacefully spending every night under the camouflage of soap operas. It is miraculously safe. The air-conditioner keeps the bad weather outside, while Shanghai Volkswagen Passat, aiming at the elite-consumer-to-be, works out such advertising slogan as, “ let the storm be more fierce!”



When people are lazily watching the outside world through a piece of glass, they get images that are just like those from television screens. It is a subjective picture about the reality, while the true reality is hidden in the great and sweltering factories in the suburbs and the ulcer-like deserted projects in downtown. To most people, “ I am afraid of leaving a center that satisfies me so much. It is an irresistible whirlpool. Out of it, it is boundless dark night.”④


“Landscape” is an increasingly popular word in the construction of new cities. It differs from the beautiful natural sceneries. It has special reference to the “artistic” scene produced during the city face-lifting movements planned by the government. This way of building scenery is more and more professional, and will be a hot project in the future.



Xing Danwen has witnessed this reality. In the series work of disCONNEXION, she penetrates far behind our information-consuming society, fixes the camera to the remnant of information consumption, the computer rubbishes. From the secret migration of these computer rubbishes, we have probed one part of globalization. The artist looks at them with a sorrowful and cool-headed attitude, endows these deserted things with a special kind of beauty in a way that is different from news reports.


Act Two


Today, artists are unavoidably addicted to schizo-role.

Behind the schizo-role lies the role allocation and role disorderliness in the fast changing consuming society. The game rule of the whole society has changed, especially after the crazy upsurge of Internet Economy. As the Nasdaq generation has withered, the sweet dream of breaking via internet the traditional social ranking and role allocation has drawn to a conclusion. The fortune is transferring at a higher speed to a certain privileged people, however, today the privileged people are the “knowledge-based elite.



In China, this social transformation is shown in more complex ways. Some enterprises have begun to realize that the traditional Taylor’s Way of Management can no longer stimulate the initiative of intellectual workers. Therefore, working systems such as options, flexitime, and studio system are gradually going into practice. People have realized that knowledge and culture can be popularized to a capital power.



What role shifting has this kind of change brought to artists? Obviously, in the post-consuming society of the West, some artists have already belonged to the privileged/knowledge-based class. They participate in the Experience Economy with their creation, thus surmount the general concept of Commodity Economy and become the new idol in the new economic form.


Rem Koolhaas and his Harvard researching group of Shopping Project are the first to notice this phenomenon. In the latest book Shopping, they had investigated the situation of every big art gallery and found that the income from selling the works in those art galleries had far surpassed the original income of art gallery themselves.  Meanwhile, the New York PRADA Flagship shop designed by Koolhaas has opened, new visitors entering the shop regard it as an art gallery. However, it is just in this “Deviation”, the consumers are attracted into a circumstance of super-consumption.


I call this kind of consumption provider that contains creativity the “super consumption”. Today, the general consumption can no longer satisfy the demand of the people. People demand to experience, to be molded, to “find their ego.”, and to “give me a little feeling”.


Brand shops look like art galleries, and art galleries look like supermarkets.


Traveling =life, and leisure=industry.


“To live poetically” becomes an advertisement slogan. And this is the changing reality.


In his latest paintings, Yan Lei directly shines the light upon the typical experience economy item, the Window of the World in Shenzhen.  There, people only have to spend a day visiting all the places of interest in the world, and to acquire a made-up experience of traveling around the world. Yan Lei has made use of a soft tone to reflect this fragile outlook on world.


Has our culture system really become the consumption system?


Do we enjoy ourselves only when we are consuming?


Has our creativity accounted as creativity only when it turns into productivity at the mercy of consumption?



Act Three




With the circulation of global information, the simple borrowing strategy has become invalid. We can see that, today, the dramatic operation of the consumption system enables itself to be strong enough to absorb its opposing side. The traditional opposing emotions and the commerce/art dichotomy cannot bring artists new creational vigor. In the real process of facing the gravitation of consumption, the artists, on the contrary, need the wisdom and strategy, which are different from the past days, to deal with the problems.


In the 90s of last century, consumption in China once became a positive power to contend with the traditional political power. Now, the artists have realized that it is just an alternation from one power to another. They still have to think about the problems under the pressure of the new power system. People are facing more newly formed and more tempting consumption, the super consumption. Before a new consumption time comes, people have to think reverse again what exactly consumption means to us, and whether consumption can bring new creativity. Obviously, now it is not the time to answer that yet.



Zhen Guogu’s paintings have refracted the overflow and extreme excitement of the media. As one of the most important young artists in China’s consumption time, his unique artistic concept has always been willfully against the “consumption” reality. In his latest paintings, he draws out the “hormone” from the popular magazines sold in street corners in Hong Kong, and lays it in the synthetic leather, the “disguise”. The collision turned out to be a marvelous artistic effect. And to our great joy, we see a possibility of sur-consuming.



Tony Law is a young photographer born in HK and grew up in USA. His works have a calm and dramatic effect.. They reflect the dual characteristics of the United States as the biggest illusive cinema on earth. One day when photographing for a clothing brand, he persuaded the client to employ a vagabond idling on the streets of New York as the model of the brand, thus cleverly turned a commercial photographing process into a “fashion day of a vagabond”. In the eyes of the young artists of this generation, the relations between commerce and art are at all time interchangeable. The importance lies on the ability of an artist to act actively by applying his concept.



Hong Hao imitated the narrative way of the “historic biography” and invented a new way of painting in the last century. His paintings look like the archaeological documents unearthed from the future. They meticulously record social, commercial and cultural changes that may be caused by globalization. It is interesting that part of the made-up scenes in the 90s of last century have come true in the new century. In the latest work “Objects ”, he uses dense pictures about objects to reflect a kind of death, or hopeless searching. Things have not changed but the people. But now these objects are condensed with political and consuming desire. One can never finish collecting them but just adding them to his endless collection. Hong Hao records in the form of “collecting objects” the daily fate of an individual in this age.. It is “Desire after desire”.



These artists go around to the back of the consumption landscape we see. They cleverly develop an observation perspective, and represent it in a unique way. These works are produced in the narrow space between art and consumption. They are the achievements of long-term personal thinking. To most people that are protected by the glass walls, appreciating them will have a special experience and a special pleasure.



Koolhaas said, if the world is plain and smooth everywhere, then the art will be the guarantee of roughness. Although he takes his architectures to prove that this “roughness” will soon turn into an experience of super consumption, the contrast between smoothness and roughness is in the process of developing and competing. They are the contradictory symbiotic entity, mixing love with hatred and mutual-dependent. They are together creating the pleasures in life.



Hk iMail, the April 6th,2002 Volume

A Perfect World, by Lian Hansheng

Consuming Society, by Jean Baudrillard

Shopping Utopia, by Hu Fang