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#307 March – April 2016

Shanghai was hailed as China’s “gateway,” “engine room” and “icon” of modernity. The Japanese invasion and the rise to power of the Communist Party, characterized by a cultural vision rooted in rural peasantry, reduced cosmopolitan Shanghai of the 1920s and ’30s to the state of an inert “sleeping beauty.” Then, in the wake of late-twentieth-century China’s “reform and opening up,” Shanghai was restructured as an outpost for China’s development, and consequently became a specter of a previous era. As Nick Land wrote in the pamphlet “A Time-Traveler’s Guide to Shanghai,” the city “reverted to the present from a discarded future, whilst excavating an unused future from the past.”

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Shanghai was hailed as China’s “gateway,” “engine room” and “icon” of modernity. The Japanese invasion and the rise to power of the Communist Party, characterized by a cultural vision rooted in rural peasantry, reduced cosmopolitan Shanghai of the 1920s and ’30s to the state of an inert “sleeping beauty.” Then, in the wake of late-twentieth-century China’s “reform and opening up,” Shanghai was restructured as an outpost for China’s development, and consequently became a specter of a previous era. As Nick Land wrote in the pamphlet “A Time-Traveler’s Guide to Shanghai,” the city “reverted to the present from a discarded future, whilst excavating an unused future from the past.”

The modernity of today’s Shanghai, “modernity 2.0” — or what Land calls neo-modernity — translates into an urban landscape that questions the very notion of temporal linearity. In her book Shanghai Future, Anna Greenspan wrote: “In [Shanghai’s] bars, cafes, teahouses, parks and boutiques, urban inhabitants play out their roles in [a] time-travel fantasy. Through its architecture, design, self-image and style, contemporary Shanghai strives to remember, and to reinvent, the creative flourishing it once — too briefly — hosted. Driven by this fractured destiny, it is embedded in a spiral of time, actively trying to splice together its imminent future with a past futurism that never had the chance to play itself out.”

Art production in Shanghai today triggers a similar “time spiral” via an ongoing debate concerning tradition and the achievement of modernity as expressed by “new” avant-garde languages. Six profiles of Shanghai-based artists and collectives — Zhang Ding, Jin Shan, Li Qing, Grass Stage, Tang Dixin and Yu Ji, by Travis Jeppesen, Azure Wu, Michele D’Aurizio, Rebecca Catching, Xin Wang and Jo-ey Tang, respectively — attempt to better understand this local debate. Additionally, three roundtables with artists, critics and thinkers Stephanie DeBoer, Ding Yi, Ingrid Fischer-Schreiber, Gong Yan, Gu Zheng, Jenny Lin, Liu Jianhua, Lu Yang, Francesca Tarocco, Yang Fudong and Xu Zhen consider how a coexisting “old” and “neo-modern” Shanghai is reflected in the city’s art scene. Visual projects by Birdhead and Lu Pingyuan phase the contents’ sequence.

Finally, this issue introduces two new columns: “Data” and “Macro.” The first is intended as a graphic exploration of art-industry phenomena, in this case a timeline of Shanghai’s “museum boom” of the last decade, compiled by Hanlu Zhang. In “Macro” — a theoretical essay that will delve into each issue’s general problematic — philosophers Anna Greenspan and Nick Land develop a concept of “neo-modernity” through their study of the traditional genre of calligraphic abstraction.

In Reviews:

Rochelle Goldberg at SculptureCenter, New York; Stewart Uoo at 47 Canal, New York; David Ireland at the San Francisco Art Institute and 500 Capp Street Foundation, San Francisco; Alexander May at LAXART, Los Angeles; David Muenzer at Reserve Ames, Los Angeles; Jac Leirner at Galeria Fortes Vilaça, São Paulo; Jemma Egan at the Zabludowicz Collection, London; Cornelia Baltes at Limoncello, London; Lars Laumann at the Kunstnernes Hus, Oslo; Peter Buggenhout at Konrad Fischer Galerie, Berlin; Cooper Jacoby at Mathew Gallery, Berlin; Claudia Comte at BolteLang, Zurich; Peter Shire at New Galerie, Paris; Riccardo Paratore at Federico Vavassori, Milan; Marieta Chirulescu at Galleria Fonti, Naples; Larissa Sansour at Lawrie Shabibi, Dubai; Wang Shang at Magician Space, Beijing; Simon Fujiwara at Taro Nasu Gallery, Tokyo.