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A single spark can start a prairie fire – Feng Boyi’s curatorial practice since 1999

Welcome to a talk with the Chinese curator Feng Boyi about his curatorial practice, moderated by Shuyu Chen, founder of the Institute for Provocation (IFP),Beijing.

The talk Feng will hold at Iaspis is a personal journey into those “small yet not to be ignored” art practices in China in the 1990s, that intend to be “a nail in the eye, a thorn in the flesh, a little grain of sand in the shoe”, and his reflection on how to still be engaged in the pursuit of freedom of expression in the Chinese context of today.
Starting in the early 1990s, Feng Boyi joined Beijing’s first wave of intrepid art visionaries as an independent curator. His early curatorial practice involved artists like Ai Weiwei, Xu Bing, Song Dong, Yin Xiuzhen and exhibitions such as “Traces of Existence: 1998 Chinese Contemporary Art Study Exhibition ”(Beijing) and “Fuck Off”, which are remarkable in the contemporary Chinese art history. Since then, he has worked extensively to internationalise the Chinese art system.

Feng Boyi is one of the most active and internationally recognised independent curators based in China. In the last 20 years he has curated large-scale exhibitions in many established art institutions in China and abroad, while still keeping a keen interest in the young, experimental and emerging artists. His early curatorial practice in the late 80s involves artists like Ai Weiwei, Xu Bing, Song Dong, Yin Xiuzhen, and exhibitions like “Traces of Existence: 1998 Chinese Contemporary Art Study Exhibition ”(Beijing) and “Fuck Off” are remarkable in the contemporary Chinese art history. The latter which he co-organised with Ai Weiwei, is an art exhibition that ran in opposition to the Shanghai Biennial of 2000. Its name was a loose and questionable translation of biennial’s theme: “The Uncooperative Attitude”.

Feng Boyi is the editor of The Black Book (1994) and The White Book (1995), one of the earliest independent publications in China about contemporary art, published by Ai Weiwei. He has written extensively on Chinese contemporary art, along with his curatorial practice. He is the artistic director of He Xiangning Art museum since 2010, and the chief curator for the first Wuzhen International Contemporary Art Exhibition in 2016. Currently he lives and works in Beijing and Shenzhen.

Shuyu Chen studied architecture in Huazhong University of Science & Technology (HUST) and Tsinghua University. From 2004 to 2007 she worked with Ai Weiwei as an architect and project coordinator, between 2007 and 2015 she worked with Ma Yansong/MAD Architects as editor and exhibition coordinator. In 2010 she founded Institute for Provocation (IFP) in Beijing with curator Els Silvrants-Barclay. IFP is an independent art organisation and project space focusing on artistic research. With IFP as a platform, she probes around the edge of architecture and performance, exploring the spatial dimension of cultural production through collaborations and collective exchange. With a wide network of artists, designers and makers in China and Europe, her projects aim at bringing these diversities together in a common physical and cultural space. Chen is based in Malmö since 2017.