I. The post Tiananmen economic, social and cultural shift
My confusion is not due to my insufficient understanding,
but because the world is changing so fast.
I look around, there is still too much for me to see
I become more and more puzzled.
These lyrics by the Chinese rock singer Cui Jian date from 1986 'but the confusion still continues' writes the Chinese art critic Lu Leiping about Shanghai.  Yang Zhenzhong's video Light as Fuck 2, 2002 (Figure 16) is a visual expression of this confusion. While the Shanghai's Pudong skyline of the next century is lifted up easily on one finger by the artist, 'it is difficult to put down the doubt and puzzle from the crisis of the bubble economy and short-term planning hidden behind prosperity'. Only the concentration, skill and agility of the artist as an acrobat can keep the immense, but light sphere with the Pearl of the Orient Tower and the Lujiazui business district, complete with green spaces and happy people, in a state of upside down, precarious balance.
The 'bubble economy' Lu Leiping refers to relates to what David Harvey calls a 'spatio-temporal fix to the overaccumulation problem of capital'.  Net foreign investment in China rose from $ 5 billion in 1991 to around $50 billion in 2002 and the Chinese market is growing rapidly with urban incomes rising at a rate of 11% and rural incomes at a rate of 6 %. Nevertheless, in the face of strong currents of over accumulation of capital and the competition between centres of capital accumulation the risk grows that devaluations with their effect on price stability further accentuate the instability. On the other hand, China which had been held back by the hostility of the Maoist regime against the private accumulation of wealth, has by 1995 quadrupled her economic output and there is a definite and visible improvement of living conditions. This is one of the reasons why public opinion seems to perceive modernisation in a more positive light than intellectuals and artists. Research on the results of public opinion polls comes to the following conclusion: in Chinese urban spaces there is, generally speaking, a strong support for the reform policy, albeit primarily as a tool to improve one's own standard of living. It seems that the respondents rate personal gains much higher and important than societal values. Hence that there seems to be a strong case for a trend towards 'societal irresponsibility'. Chinese sociology talks in this context about shehui shixu [loss of social order], a phenomenon during major social changes which Durkheim has diagnosed as 'anomy'.
Add to this sociological phenomenon the effective marketing/propaganda for a new Shanghai which is to comprise 4500 high rise buildings and the worlds highest building of 492 m to be completed by 2007 and one understands that the confusion about the rapid change is at the moment primarily a concern of intellectuals and artists who deplore this new form of urban policy based on a uniform vision of the modern world which is according to Hou Hanru deeply related to the ideologies of both communist and capitalist utopias of modernity.
Today existing as an individual in the Chinese city, behind the excitement of participating in the making of a brilliant and wealthy urban world, one also has to bear the pressure of the dictatorship of consumerist ideology and political –cultural unifomisation of art and architecture/urbanism.
Horkheimer and Adorno observed already in 1947 that a rise in the standard of living can make the dominated even more powerless .Their argument was a reaction against the enlightenment belief in progress and modernization.  The Chinese thinker Li Zehou explains the Chinese view on modernization as a "philosophy of eating" and comes to a similar conclusion as Horkheimer and Adorno. Namely that, modernization as such can be so powerful that it destroys almost every kind of obstacles and causes a series of cultural shifts. Wang Hui describes these shifts from a Marxist point of view: the processes of modernizations cause multiple social crises like population explosion (in terms of population density), environmental degradation, imbalances in the social distribution system, corruption. In China market reforms were initiated by a strong state, and members of the political elite and their families directly participate in economic activities. In the cultural field, there is no power of resistance against state intervention since most journals are published by state-owned publishing houses, and if there are unofficial productions they are usually more cautious because of their greater vulnerability and lack of systemic protection. On the other hand capital is penetrating every corner of social and political life. Somewhere between capital power and authoritarian state power the intellectual is squeezed with an ever diminishing autonomous space for critique. How do contemporary artists handle these cultural shifts?
II. Facing Modernity –Artistic responses
Next to Yang Zhenzhong's irony , Yang Fudong creates in his videos and photographs an ambiguity of multiple meanings. Ji Dachun's paintings are to my eyes expression of hesitation and withdrawal, while I would read a certain half hidden anguish and despair, into the portraits of Geng Jianyi . All artists demonstrate an intensive concern about the process of making and the specificity of the medium they are working with. At the same time they search for an independent visual language.
Yang Fudong's Close to the Sea, xiahai was shown in 2004 at the Liverpool Biennial. It is about two people who, after struggling for survival on a shipwrecked raft in the rolling sea, rest completely exhausted on a beach ( Fig.17 b). On the backside of the screen the same couple is in love, playing with each other, in a beach buggy, on a white horse in black and white (Fig.17 a). This double screen is surrounded by eight smaller screens which show musicians elegantly dressed in Western clothes on rocks against the rolling Yellow Sea playing the sentimental yet dissonant music of Jin Wang. It is an impressive video installation which the The Guardian's art critic, Adrian Searle, a painter himself, praised as the only truly major work of the Liverpool Biennial. 'Totally engaging, mysterious and full of memorable images and music, this moved me.' This work was recently shown in Vienna and art critics there praised its ambiguity with an undertone of surprise: the images on the screen being so different from the sterotype of the hardworking Chinese. The Austrian curator Sabine Folie titled her essay on Yang Fudong 'Film as painting' emphasizing the double character of the work itself and the 'Andeutung und Anspielung.' In my own reading xia hai relates very much to the actual situation of China. It becomes an opportunity to create a materially better life through modernisation and progress – a modernist credo but with the high risk the instability of the economy in late capitalism. A second, more intimate reading would relate to the pleasures and difficulties of a partnership. In both readings xia hai conveys ambiguities- by the double meaning of its title referring to the sea and to the risk, the sound of the rolling sea against the sentimental yet dissonant music played on western instruments, the double screen, colour and black white, the couple on the main screen against the musicians on the eight surrounding screens which evoke the chorus of a Greek drama. Beyond the ( narrative) reading of images the visual installation in space with the double screen in the centre and the eight surrounding screens construct also something imaginary:
Die visuelle Installation im Raum unterscheidet sich von der traditionellen Weise des Betrachtens von Filmen. Ich ziehe es vor, dies mit dem Bild des Herzens und mit dem Bild der Wahrnehmung zu erklaeren. Wenn man in der Mitte der Ausstellungshalle steht, dann, so hoffe ich, wird man ein schoenes Gebauede sehen, das auf einer Gruppe von unsichtbaren Bildern basiert.
Ji Dachun showed his work in Shanghai in the framework of the 2000 Biennale, 2002 in a solo exhibition at the Aurora Gallery.  Besides his better known commercial work which is a mixture between children's drawings and cartoons with sexual connotations, sold by Sotheby's 'as witty pieces created in a new style with bright colours, comic characters and a theme that is more relevant to our everyday lives', there exist also other paintings which are of a rare sensibility and unique concern with the medium. They are created on sailcloth, with graphite, washes of ink, tea and white acrylic. One of the most touching works is hole in my body (Figure 18). It shows a hesitating figure pointing at himself, round but seemingly weightless like an imaginary self. Similarly to Ren Xiong's Self Portrait( Fig.1) it has no visible background, the canvas being primed with washes of tea. But unlike Ren Xiong who seems to stand firmly on an imaginary ground Ji seems to be up in the air- or in other terms with no firm ground beneath his feet. This is achieved by leaving a lot of empty space around the figure. Li Xianting, when discussing Ji's paintings, talks about a purity of expression and remarks that the people in his paintings seem to stand still, their roundness not communicating any physical power. Ji's work was influenced by Cy Twombly , Maurizio Cattelan, Joan Miro, but he also spent years tracing classical Chinese paintings and the main focus of his art is the actual process of painting. Ji's Hole in my body shows no visible pencil marks. The weightlessness and roundness of the figure resemble China Trade paintings (Fig. 5). Upon closer examination of the canvas'surface he seems to use a sort of 'rub and paint' technique which Rawanchaikul, curator at the Fukuoka Art Museum, describes as follows: the three-dimensional effect was achieved by rubbing charcoal powder on to the surface creating gradations of light and dark. On top of it comes layered colour powder. 
Striking images of the human face are at the centre of current work by Geng Jianyi titled Face (Figure 19). It is a series of portraits produced, not reproduced, on glossy photographic paper. It is a head, photographed frontally and painted over by the artist on photosensitive paper ( photographic paqper) with a maobi [Chinese brush] and ink. The black ink which blocks out completely or partially the light – this depends on the wateriness of the ink- creates the fine shades of whites and beiges. Arguing for or against Chineseness in such work seems to be an issue besides the point although the theorist will find Western realism combined with Chinese brush technique. Extremely fine layers of lighter shades reveal and hide the portrait in such a way that the viewer is left with all her questions unanswered. And unlike Ren Xiongs asserting Self Portrait ( Fig.1) Geng Jian Yi's Visible Face which was exhibited at the Shanghai Biennale in 2004 (Fig 20) seem to leave the position of the subject to the artist open. To my mind there is a certain combination of withdrawal of the self and assertion of the self. The face is veiled and unveiled, appears and disappears, is revealed and hidden. Unlike the angry posture and the air of resistance of the Self portrait Geng Jianyi's faces evoke doubt and questioning. This slightly distant indifference is also conveyed by the sepia tones of the portraits which create a distancing effect to the stark here and now of the black and white. A Chinese viewer might also perceive an allusion to the need to keep one's face (mianzi), not reveal everything to the other person, a game similar to wearing and taking off a mask.
Geng Jianyi's way as an artist is closely linked to the China Avantgarde of the 1980s. Karen Smith writes that his work is one of the most consistent and profound bodies of work to have come out of this movement.He faced difficulties as an artist from early on, today he teaches at the China Academy of Art in Hangzhou. Oil paintings of a serious couple which Geng had put forward as his final work in 1985 were met with opposition because they 'showed no positive expression'. Nevertheless, he graduated from the Academy's oil painting department and became together with the video artist Zhang Peili part of a parallel movement to the bawuyundong [1985 movement ] called the Pool Society (chishe). Their members were notable for their biting sense of humour and absurdist spirit. In the 85 xin kongjian huazhan (New Space Exhibition) Geng Jianyi's showed 'grey humour' paintings.One of them is The Second State (Fig. 21) showing hysterically laughing heads in a photo-realistic style, in tones of grey and of an enormous scale (200 x 145 cm). They were made as a reaction to earlier criticism that his subjects show no positive spirit. After the 1986 September exhibition of Xiamen Dada , the Pool Society--including Zhang Peili, Geng Jianyi, and Wang Qiang--created a series called Yangshi Taichi No. 1 (Taiji xilie yihao) on the banks of Xihu Lake and in the streets of Hangzhou (Fig. 22/22a). This new' street art' was made outside the confines of the academy, the common people had access to this type of art. (Fig. 22a shows an early morning practicioner of Tai Ji next to the paintings which had been made during the night before).
A comparison between the -Taiji paintings on the walls of the city of Hangzhou and Geng Jianyi's portraits exhibited almost 20 years later at the Shanghai Biennale or during a recent retrospective in one of the leading Shanghai Galleries are evidence of the cultural shift which has taken place. While the first was Avant Garde with some remnants of Maoist Revolutionary art for the people and big character posters, albeit no longer with a political message, the latter becomes a modernist form of high art, with combines the Chinese brush technique with the Western photography but whose meaning can be interpreted differently. While a viewer's mind trained in Western thinking and by the mere fact of her age might relate the visual impression to a certain school of thinking which was popular in the sixties, there might be an alternative meaning like the one of keeping one's face I have mentioned above, which is part of Chinese culture. However if we look at the issues beyond the first symbolic reading Zhang Peili's remark comes to my mind. At an interview I conducted with him in Hangzhou he answered my question of whether society was still a topic for contemporary artists: 'Yes, but as seen through the body of the artist '. And without venturing into generalising theories I would say that each artwork presented can be seen as an expression of the uneasy relationship between the artist and the uneven development of China, whether it is the balancing act of Yang Zhenzhong or the risk taking and exhaustion of a couple in the film of Yang Fudong. Whether Ji Dachun draws his figure with a hole in his body, weightless and up in the air, or Geng Jianyi covers a face by hiding it behind his personal, manual painting. In terms of alternative modernity their work becomes, to paraphrase Hou Hanru , a testimony to the real in an 'objective, neutral and un-theatrical way'. They make work that is non-commercial, difficult and maybe not even following design principles which would facilitate their sale. This is not the culture of late capitalism in the sense of Jameson's Postmodernism but the search for individual responses to an urban environment of uneven development, with the repercussions of global overaccumulation of capital and with an ever increasing velocity of life itself. They speak to their audience circumventing language, provided the viewer is ready to pause and take the time to engage not only with the image, its meaning but even with the way it is made, ranging from the set up of an installation to the medium specific technique of a painting In that respect their work resembles the high modern (albeit executed in different media than at the time of Greenberg).
Concluding remarks : Towards an alternative order?
Hou Hanru has talked about the need of a constructive process to break down West-centricism and to realise an alternative new order. On the other hand, 'even today, the new art is still half hidden in the underground and the basic foundations are missing' Zhang Zhaohui complains in a contribution on. www.china-gallery.com. Contradictions and tensions.in contemporary Chinese art are too important and evidence I could gather in the short available time too scarce to make an overall systems assessment. This is why I limit myself to a few singular examples of the institutional situation in Shanghai .
The first concerns the Internet as a marketing tool and as an alternative project site. Chinese galleries and artists make extensive use of the internet, they have websites and discussion forums. These sites provide access to the educated few. According to the most recent statistics 7, 2 % of the Chinese have Internet access. I will come back to the effect the use of the internet has on the art produced at the end of the pape. Firstly I would like to focus on the internet's function as . an alternative way to improve the accessibility of art and to show contemporary art outside the big urban centres like Shanghai and Beijing. One example is the collaborative art project 'The Long March'. It has a virtual part on the web, and physical projects along the route of Mao's Long March. Organised and financed by a foundation in New York and the 25.000 Cultural Transmission Centre in Beijing, it's purpose is to take Contemporary Chinese and international art to a to a sector of the Chinese public that is rarely or never exposed to such work. Its aim is to bring art to people who live in remote communities. Edward Lucie Smith compares the project to the efforts of the Predvizhniki[Wanderer, Itinerants] who wanted to bring accessible art to the Russian peasants. The long march is in the words of Edward Lucie Smith an expression of postmodern irony. Indeed the Shanghai artist Qu Guangqi's refers ironically to the mingong [ migrant workers] in the framework of this Project by participating in the project through hiring a paid migrant worker who participates by carrying a sculpture of -Qu.Guangqi .  However Gao Shiming, the deputy curator of the last Shanghai Biennale whom I interviewed during my stay in China sees this project as the manifestation of an alternative discourse for a number of reasons: firstly it relates to alternative modernity since its main topic is Mao's Long March and hence the revolutionary heritage of China, secondly it brings art to the people –substantially different from a postmodernist simulacrum or a culture of late capitalism which is focussed on the urban elite. And thirdly it becomes an alternative mode of cultural production by the combination of reality- the project takes actually place in many small villages along the Route of the Long March and often involves the local population - with virtuality –there is an extensive website and it is linked to institutions abroad-.
The second concerns the classical museum structure, namely the Duolun Museum in Shanghai which was opened in 2003 and is so far the only public museum of contemporary Chinese art in China. In a recent article on this museum, its Director, Biljana Biric wrote that over the past ten years, 90% of Chinese contemporary artwork went into the hand of Western collectors, museums and other institutions. The cause is to be found within Chinese museums and their policies. But also Duolun's budget is limited and at the moment there are a mere 30 works in their collection, most of them donated by the artists. Also in China artists (or their galleries) have to pay rent to exhibit , which is one of the reasons why exhibitions are so short and their quality doubtful. At the time of my study trip there was an excellent exhibition called 'Shanghai Cool' with cutting edge Chinese, Taiwanese and Korean Design curated by a Taiwanese curator . The numerous audience at the exhibition was as far as I could judge, Chinese, with many young people, and hardly any foreign visitors.
Applying Luhmann's theory about the self description of art through the institutionalisation of art and the establishment of supporting information to the praxis of China's discourse and institution building seems not only difficult because of the scarcity of the evidence but also because there is –as I have shown- an extremely uneven development between the two realms: the brick and mortar of the museum and virtuality of the internet. On a third level , the commercial galleries, their number seems to increase with more and more Chinese entrepreneurs venturing into the art business. Their compelling use of the internet as a marketing tool could however, have a negative effect on art .It might bring about the 'crime of design' by which, extrapolating Foster, I mean a fundamental shift in the appearance of art which has to be' strong 'enough to look 'attractive' on a screen or page. This together with a sensationalism caused not only by the taste of the Western audience but also by the extremely competitive system in China make it doubtful of whether an alternative modernity based on China's unique political and cultural heritage which in the last one hundred years has also included the opening up to other cultures can survive or will be swept away by a cultural logic of either late capitalism or, alternatively, a revival of authoritarianism. Since China will most likely become a global player in the cultural field the answers to this question will also have repercussions on the global art system.
Lu Leiping, 'Views from Onlooker's Horizons, Labyrinth of Shanghai', Light as Fuck , Shanghai Assemblage 2000-2004, Exhibition Catalogue, The National Museum of Art Norway, Oslo 2004, p.27
 Cui Jian is the most famous Chinese rock singer, his texts express alienation, confusion, individual feelings such search for love and tenderness as well as protest against the pressure of everyday work life. Rock music in China is considered as oppositional counter-culture. For details see: Thomas Heberer (ed.)Yaogun Yinyue: Jugend-Subkultur und Rockmusik in China, Politische und Gesellschaftliche Hintergruende eines neuen Phaenomens [Youth counterculture and rock music in China, social background of a new phenomenon], Lit, Muenster, 1994
 Lu Leiping, p.27
 David Harvey, The New Imperialism, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2003 p.122
 David Harvey p.124. Note the strong pressure on China to devaluate its currency. According to the Nobel Prize winner Robert Mundell,' a renminbi appreciation would cut foreign direct investment, cut China's growth rate, delay convertibility, increase bad loans, increase unemployment, cause deflation distress in rural areas, destabilize Southeast Asia, reward speculators, set in motion more revaluation pressures, weaken the external role of the renminbi and undermine China's compliance with World Trade Organization rules'. Quoted in Steve H.Hanke: Why China won't revalue, published February 16, 2005 on www.cato.org
 David Harvey p.92
 In the framework of a project at the Free University of Berlin and based on polls conducted by the People's University in Beijing and the Fudan University in Shanghai in the early 1990s, Bettina Granswo/Li Hanlin: China's Neue Werte , Enstellungen zu Modernisierung und Reformpolitik, [China's New Values: Attitudes towards Modernization and Reform Policy], Berliner China Studien, Minerva Publikationen, Munich,1995
 Emil Durkheim:'Ueber die Anomie', in C.Wright Mills, Klassiker der Soziologie, Eine polemische Auslese, 1960,pp.394ff quoted in Gransow/Li p.16
 Hou Hanru, 'Looking for a place, for yourself, and for all the others', Chang Yung Ho, Wang Jian Wei, Yang Fudong, Camera, Exhibition Catalogue,Musee d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, Paris, 2003 p.13
 Max Horkheimer, Theodor Adorno, Dialectic of Enlightenment, Allen Lane, London, 1973 p.38 However, the abandonment of the enlightenment project which turned against itself and transformed the quest for human emancipation into a system of universal oppression in the name of human liberation should be read in the context of Horkheimer's and Adorno's experience with Nazism.
 Li Zehou, Modernization and the Confucian World, Address at Colorado College on February 5, 1999 on www.coloradocollege.ed/Academics, Anniversary/Transcripts
 Wang Hui, 'Contemporary Chinese Thought and the Question of Modernity', Zhang Zudong ,Whither China, Intellectual Politics in Contemporary China, Duke University Press, London 2001,p.165
 Hou Hanru, On The Mid Ground, Timezone 8, HongKong 2002, p.32
 Xia hai means literally going down to the sea or going out on the sea and this title of Yang Fudong's video installation work is translated as Close to the Sea. It was commissioned for the Liverpool Biennale. However, xia hai has also been coined in the context of recent economic and social changes in China. It relates to the relatively new phenomenon of self employed businessmen (getihu) and to intellectuals or scholars who are no longer employed within the (low income) state system, but who turn towards the market See Wang Hui, The 1989 social movement and the historical roots of China's neoliberalism' , Huters, Theodore (ed.) China's New Order, Society, Politics and Economy in Transition, Cambridge (Mass) Harvard University Press, 2003, p.85.
 Liverpool Biennial, International O4, exhibition catalogue, Liverpool 2004
 Searle Adrian, 'Scouse Stew' ,The Guardian , September 21, 2004, www.guardian.co.uk/arts
 Andrea Domesele, Artmagazine cc. 28, February, 2005 on www.artmagazine.cc
 Intimation and Allusion, but the German original 'Anspielung' also has to do with 'Spiel' or play. Spiel or Play, an important element in art, seems to get lost in the translations from German into English .
 Yang Fudong, quoted on the panel next to At the Sea. Yang Fudong, Don't worry it will be better, Exhibition, Vienna Kunsthalle, February 23- May 15, 2005.'Visual installation in space is different from the traditional viewing of films. I prefer to explain that with the image of the heart and the image of perception. When one stands in the centre of the exhibition hall, then-so I hope- one can see a beautiful building, based on a group of imaginary images'. The translation is my own.
 Jidachun, I've seen it all, Exhibition Catalogue, Aura Gallery, Shanghai 2002, www.aura-art.com
 See for instance Sotheby's Chinese Contemporary Art, including Korean Contemporary Art , Auction Catalogue, Sunday, May 1, 2005, Hong Kong p.88
 Li Xianting, Dachun Pure Humor, Jidachun, Exhibition catalogue, Soka Art Center, Time Zone 8 ,Hong Kong, 2004,p.9-34
 Encounters, The Meeting of Asia and Europe, 1500-1800, Exhibition Catalogue,V&A Publications, London, 2004, p.275 The original is in the Victoria and Albert Museum
 Rawanchaikul, Toshiko, 'Another Current of Chinese Modern Art', China Dream-Another Flower of Chinese Modern Art, Exhibition Catalogue, Fukuoka Asian Museum, 2004, p.166
 I am indebted to my Mandarin tutor, An Hongzhen for this observation
 See also the introduction and note 3
 Karen Smith, The Art of Duplicity on www.shanghart.com/texts
 The image in the illustration is from 1987 and was shown at the China Avant Garde exhibition of 1993. I could not find an earlier version of this painting to which Gao Minlu seems to refer.
The artists used language and pictorial representation. For instance the Chinese characters in Fig. 20 indicate the name of the Taiji movement depicted.
 And in the early eighties in China. Reception of Western philosophy and literature had its origin in the Institute of Foreign Philosophy of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences which was founded during the Cultural Revolution following Mao's strategy 'know your enemies' in order to facilitate professional studies of modern Western philosophy and social thought..Zhang Xudong, Chinese Modernism in the Era of Reforms, Cultural Fever, Avant Garde Fiction, And the New Chinese Cinema, Duke University Press, London, 1997 pp.56ff. However it was only in Post Maoist Era xin shiqui [new era] that translations became widely available.
 Interview with Zhang Peili at the China Art Academy, April 4, Hangzhou.
 Hou Hanru, On The Mid Ground, Timezone 8, HongKong 2002 p.32
 Ibid. p.63
 Zhang Zhaohui,' Where do we depart to?' on www.china-gallery.com
 See Bibliography for some websites used for this paper
Figure for 2004 Source: futurezone.orf.at For comparison: Global internet penetration is around 10% with a top position of the Scandinavian countries followed by the US 59,1%. Other countries' internet penetration: UK 56,88; Austria 45,2 France 28,4. Source www.nua.ie. Note that all the nua statistics are from 2002, while the orf.at is from 2004.China has recently started a campaign to register all hosts of websites and censorship is increasing.
 Edward Lucie-Smith, Visiting the Long March, www.longmarchspace.com/english/e-discourse6htm
 The mingong are the new proletariat of China, the migrant workers from the countryside who work not only at the destruction and construction sites of Shanghai and other urban centres but who are also a cheap labor force in the factories of the Special Economic Zones.Their number is estimated between 100 and 200 million.
 Interview conducted with Gao Shiming, the deputy curator of the Shanghai Biennale 2004 at the China Academy of Art, Hangzhou, April 4 2005
 Biljana Biric,'The Shanghai Duolun Museum of Modern Art', Yishu, Spring Issue March 2005, Taipei pp.12-6
 Nikolas Luhmann, Art as a Social System, Stanford University Press, Stanford, 2000
 This implies that the language of the advertising world is more and more used in the artworld.