If you managed to catch the recent Ai Weiwei documentary about his art and activism, you will no doubt be interested to see this new exhibition at the Hayward Gallery. Art of Change focuses on work produced by Chinese artists from the 1980s until the present, in particular those who have worked with performance and installation. The exhibition describes itself as ‘living’ and ‘breathing’ and actually, it is. Not that the Hayward has taken to developing inorganic life but rather, in the run up to the opening, they have been recruiting members of the public to carry out performances for the exhibition’s duration.
Performance art participants are offered different tasks, including organising a yoga style class for the public or holding a ‘falling’ pose for a period of time. The opportunity is exciting and unusual, offering a chance to truly interact with the artwork. Voluntary positions are on offer for works by MadeIn Company, Yingmei Duan and Liang Shaoji. Other artists in the exhibition include the late Chen Zhen, a Chinese artist who managed to emigrate to France prior to the cultural oppression that began in 1989. Other interesting artists Sun Yuan and Peng Yu will be making an appearance – but be warned these artists are not for a squeamish audience, often working with human fat tissue or baby cadavers. All the artists live and work in China, so the exhibition should provide insight into the kind of contemporary work this sleeping giant is capable of. Whether any of this will signal a new direction for the freedom offered to an artist, you will probably have to ask Ai Weiwei about that. (Words: Laura Thornley)
For more info, visit www.southbankcentre.co.uk