About this exhibition

‘Chinternet Ugly’ navigates the messy vitality of China’s online realm, a space where artists can engage, play and debate.

This exhibition features a new commission by Miao Ying plus site-specific installations by five other leading new media artists: aaajiao, Lin Ke, Liu Xin, Lu Yang and Ye Funa.

China is home to 802 million Internet users, 431 million micro-bloggers, 788 million Internet mobile phone users, and four of the top ten Internet companies in the world. This vast user base combined with a handful of ubiquitous online platforms and e-commerce giants including WeChat, Tencent and Alibaba results in cultural currents that flow at a blinding pace – spreading and evolving far more rapidly than on the ‘global’ web and creating a distinct internet culture – the ‘Chinternet’. Utilising this space as a site for cultural and political negotiation, critique and play, the artists presented in ‘Chinternet Ugly’ probe how
 the sheer volume of Internet users in China ensure that the country 
is effectively becoming its own online centre of gravity, one with the power to create its own sphere of influence over network norms.

Focusing on a younger generation of artists – the first to have grown up with mass digital technology – ‘Chinternet Ugly’ invites the viewer to explore the complex and contradictory nature of China’s hyper-regulated digital sphere from the perspective of some of its most dynamic and engaging artists. From Xu Wenkai (aaajiao) and Lin Ke’s manipulations of found digital materials and standard software programs; to the augmented reality of Lu Yang; the celebratory pop aesthetics of Ye Funa to the dark side of internet freedom in the works of Liu Xin, and the veneration of the ugly and artless evident in the works of Miao Ying.

 

Paying tribute to the messy humanity found between the cracks in a digital world of smooth transitions, polished selfies, blemish correcting software and autocorrect, ‘Chinternet Ugly’ celebrates lo-fi aesthetics and highlights the Chinternet’s potential to subvert cultural stereotypes, reject societal norms and generate a vibrant vernacular of satirical memes and online subcultures.

To mark this exhibition CFCCA are delighted to announce a co-commission in partnership with the University of Salford Art Collection of a new work by Miao Ying, Love’s Labours’ Lost. This video installation explores Miao’s own relationship with China’s hyper-regulated online realm, which she views as a ‘Stockholm Syndrome’, a traumatic bonding. In this work Miao Ying uses love locks left by lovers on the bridges of Paris as metaphor for the complex and conflicted relationship between China’s internet users and Chinese internet technology, security and access.

As an artist from the first generation to grow up with China’s open policy and the internet, Miao explores in a humorous way the visual language of the Chinese internet and its users. As with the other five artists featured in ‘Chinternet Ugly’ she works online, often using GIFs, screen shots and lo-fi visual elements alongside physical installations.

‘Chinternet Ugly’ has been co-curated by Dr Ros Holmes, Presidential Academic Fellow in Art History at the University of Manchester and Marianna Tsionki, Research Curator, CFCCA.

This exhibition was made possible with a Jonathan Ruffer Curatorial Research Grant from the Art Fund.