On 8 July 1994, the artists Liu Anping and Zhao Shaoruo plotted a controversial action in Beijing. They rented a screening room in the Da Hua Cinema in the Chongwen district and invited art-world people to join them there. The invitees were told they were going to see a performance video by Liu and Wang Jinsong. During the screening, Liu and Zhao appeared and Zhao splashed about a liter of ink on the invitees, for which they were totally unprepared. This provocative action is not the only one of its kind. For example, in 1997, artists Yan Lei and Hong Hao forged a hundred copies of the Documenta exhibition’s invitation letter and sent them to Chinese artists who had never participated in Documenta. The motivation of such subversive actions lies in disobedience to the new notion of authority established in the 1990s: the market, economic value and systemic order, all of which entered into the daily imagination of art-making.
In 1992, the First 1990s Biennial Art Fair (the Oil Painting Section), also known as the Guangzhou Biennale, was held in Guangzhou. The significance of the exhibition lies in that it formed the basis of a plan on the future of Chinese art, in the context of economic reforms. That plan was proposed by a group of critics and artists, particularly Lu Peng. At its core, the proposal was driven by a desire for Chinese artists and intellectuals to establish a Chinese discourse and value system that was not dictated by Western standards. It was an influential event in the 1990s and reflected realistic anxieties as art sought its position in society. Does it mean everything, however, if art gains its position by being recognized for its commercial value and is identified by art critics? Alert to such problems, some artists didn’t hesitate to take actions to express their own attitudes. Liu and Zhao’s ink-splashing event was one of these actions to rebel against discursive hegemony.
Liu Anping, born in 1964 in Shanxi, lives and works in Berlin. He studied arts at the Academy of Xi’an, and graduated from the oil-painting department of Zhejiang Academy of Fine Arts. In China, he worked as an independent artist from 1989 to 1996, after which he settled in Germany.