edited by Fan Di’an and Zhang Ga – Synthetic Times: Media Art China

edited by Fan Di'an and Zhang Ga

National Art Museum of China, The MIT Press, ISBN 978-0262512268, China/USA, 2009, English
During the peak period of global attention on China, before the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, the biggest exhibition of digital art in China took place at the National Art Museum in China. It was not really a local effort, but a joint international one, gathering together most of the major historical institutions in the field. The attempt to synthesize the last decade’s work with western reactions to the new digitally mobilised China and other miscellaneously significant pieces was a goal only partially achieved. The effort was monumental and is unlikely to be repeated soon in any other country. It aimed to look back at all the major cultural issues raised by technologies and machines: the body involvement/dissolution, the shaping of the personal imaginary, biological manipulation, the reconfiguration of space & time, etc. Nevertheless some seminal topics are clearly excluded from the endeavour – just to cite a couple: the de-centralization and self organization of autonomous communities enabled and implemented by networks, and privacy/copyright concepts. The many perceptive and representative (aesthetic) successes here are missing an important sense of cohesion – for understandable social and political reasons that are ultimately embedded in the history and meaning of this exhibition. The book works, then, as an interesting historical document – more so for its partiality than for being omni-comprehensive.