9 months ago

Diplomatic World_nummer 56.

116 an evil regime

116 an evil regime against which stands a knight-like hero. That’s a bit of a caricature of the European perception of China, but still it’s more or less true. What most people don’t know is that Weiwei is the son of Ai Qing, a famous poet who was one of the founding members of the communist party, so he is also, so to speak, a red prince. Nevertheless, Weiwei is an interesting personality, there’s nothing that I could say against that. His influence on a whole generation of Chinese artists is obvious. He’s also a very gifted architect, he made his first architectural project in Caochangdi, the artist village that is home to a diverse group of residents, including migrant workers, farmers, students and artists, on the outskirts of Beijing. Those are all obvious merits. What I get irritated by is this kind of very limited European attitude of wanting to know only this one artist and the lack of interest in any others. And I can tell you that in this grey zone you have a whole group of wonderful artists whom I consider among the best of their generation, worldwide! Let me stress that for those artists, their behaviour and their functioning as artists are no different from the way European or Belgian artists function. The university is your home base, you said. Personally, I’m convinced that the university should be an excellent biotope for exceptional creativity and out-of-the box thinking. Sometimes university leadership and certainly Faculty leadership tend to forget this, and should be reminded about it. You don’t fit into any box. I don’t know anything equivalent or similar to what you’re doing. Do you still believe that the university is the only right place for you? I very much presume so, but let me first tell you this: if you’re a pioneering type of person, which I think I am, you also must question the place where you work. I always consider the university as a free haven; it was born and meant to be like that. Remember what is written on the gate of the main building of Heidelberg university: “Dem lebendigen Geist”. This is also my motto. When I look at my field of research in general, it’s in a miserable state because it hasn’t succeeded in finding an interesting place in a rapidly changing world. It’s also the university’s task to question its own operational models and I believe that I’m contributing to that. But, of course, I’m also thankful for the freedom to operate in the field I have chosen as my focus of attention. I travel a lot, I’m very much interested in bridging gaps between cities and refining of my experimental form of making exhibitions and, yes, life is short. I’ve followed your activities closely and interacted with several of your team members. They’re all very special personalities, creative and willing to think out-of-the box. But, how do you manage to get finances for all this? Well, let me put it this way. When I did Brussels Body Speech in 2010, it opened a lot of windows in the minds of Belgian diplomats in China. So, immediately afterwards they invited me to do a project in Beijing commemorating 45 years of diplomatic ties between Belgium and China; so we succeeded in entering CAFA, the Central Academy of Fine Arts, which is probably the most performing art campus in the world. I‘m still very proud that we succeeded in partnering with them because it is really not easy. Since that moment, we’ve done four or five projects for the Brussels regional government and they’ve financed a large part of those grassroot projects. I must say that, looking at their global impacts, I’m quite satisfied with what we succeeded in doing. If I say we, it’s again a question of teamwork and personalities that are critical to creating success. But we can say that over the last few years, with all those projects in China, Korea, Japan, Germany and Italy, we succeeded in creating a deep awareness among all those key political figures in the Brussels region. It’s strange that the awareness has been raised here in Brussels while almost all your projects are taking place somewhere else, in an international context. Well, we also did two big projects in BOZAR. It’s true that we’re now thinking of turning this initiative into a kind of hub, a lightweight structure embedded in the Brussels Capital Region. The first thing I want to do is to open a completely new field of action that’s complementary to the international projects, because the challenge isn’t only to work globally on what cultural diplomacy is supposed to be, but also to work locally. Thank you, Hans De Wolf, for this most fascinating story that reveals various aspects of your personality, ambitions and achievements. Is there anything you’d like to add to the story? Yes, in times that are very much marked by short term benefits and returns on investments, times when people are very often under pressure to deliver all kinds of things, I’d like to thank all those people whose minds were open enough, whose understanding of what we were doing was good enough to accompany us on this road.

I know of a dozen of civil servants and colleagues who really engaged themselves, who were really behind us and supported us and one of them was yourself. I want to thank them, because we’ve done all this in a difficult context and it wasn’t easy. We’ve had several projects that were financially tight due to low budgets and last minute financing. So, if you show the results afterwards, you might think that this was paradise, that everything was fantastic and wonderful but the birth of each project, its organisation and also its closure, is often very hard and complicated. © The Central Academy of Fine Arts (CAFA), Beijing Well, I guess hard work is at the origin of all successful research. It’s one of the conditions to earn a good place in paradise on earth. Jan Cornelis, Emeritus Professor VUB and Academic Attaché CIDIC Acknowledgement: Many thanks to Aude Tournaye, who made an excellent initial speech-to-text transcription, and Jennie De Pryck for revising the manuscript thoroughly. PROJECT PORTFOLIO – HANS MARIA DE WOLF Hans Maria De Wolf’s contemporary art project portfolio is impressive: • BRUSSELS BODY SPEECH, Minsheng Art Museum, Shanghai 2010 (a project confronting transhumanism with the celebration of the body) • FIRST CAFA BIENNALE, Central Academy of Fine Arts Museum, Beijing 2011 (CAFA is the most prominent arts institute place in China — and a structured partnership with VUB is now wellestablished with 5 projects and collaborations on teaching) • JEFF WALL, THE CROOKED PATH, Centre of Fine Arts - BOZAR, Brussels 2011 • BRINGING BROODTHAERS TO BEIJING, Tsinghua University, Beijing 2011 • BRINGING BROODTHAERS TO SHANGHAI, Minsheng Art Museum, Shanghai 2011 • WANDERLUST, Artsonje Center Seoul, 2012 • WANDERLUST — SECOND VERSION, Gwangju Museum of Art, Gwangju 2013 • WANDERLUST — THIRD VERSION, Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA), Chengdu 2013 • OUR MEMORY?, Jiao Tong University, Shanghai 2014 • MASTER MOULD AND COPY ROOM, Central Academy of Fine Arts Museum, Beijing 2014 (a project in which the tension between the original and the copy in China and the West was discussed) • THE REVENGE OF THE COMMON PLACE, Palazzo Nani Mocenigo, Official program of the Venice Biennale 2015 • CHINESE UTOPIAS REVISITED — THE ELEPHANTS, Centre of Fine Arts - BOZAR, Brussels 2015 (contextualizing the work of 8 major Chinese artists) • FORME E ANTI FORME, Fonderia Artistica Battaglia, Milano 2015 • XU BING: WORLDS OF WORDS/GOODS OF GODS, Triennale, Milano 2016 • MARCEL DUCHAMP, THE LARGE GLASS, Beijing, PhD seminar in CAFA, June 2016 • EXPERIMENT’L, Tokyo, Intermediatèque Museum, October 2016 • MARCEL DUCHAMP, THE INFRA-THIN NOTES, Beijing, PhD seminar in CAFA, April 2017 • GEMISCHTE GEFÜHLE, Berlin, Flughafen Tempelhof/ Künstlerhaus Bethanien, October 2017 (presenting to the powerful art world in Berlin the qualities of Brussels based art through its youngest generation of artists) New projects for New York and Chengdu are being developed for 2018 while in 2020 Hans De Wolf will organize an exhaustive Marcel Duchamp exhibition at CAFA in Beijing. 117