by Julie Segraves
(Asian Art Coordinating Council)
The focus of cutting edge art in China today has shifted from sculpture and painting to performance, photographic and video art. Many forward-thinking artists now use the human body as their canvas and in the process, are creating conceptual art, which is then captured, and even heightened by photography and video. Some of the first examples of conceptual or idea- based photos, documenting underground performance art, were taken during the mid 1990's at the East Village, an art community located to the northeast of Beijing. At the end of the 1990's some photo artists were also working with digitally enhanced computer images. Subsequently, by the early 2000s conceptual photography had evolved into a well-established art form. Today some of the most distinctive work is the matchless mixture of performance art and photography being created by the artist Li Wei.
This Chinese Evil Knievel uses his own body to produce works that are both unsettling and provocative and, at times, comic in their deadpan delivery. What Li Wei does not present is the traditional imagery of past party leaders and the pageantry of their political programs. Instead, the social context of Li Wei's work reflects his unease with China's globalization and the constantly changing urban environment, coupled with the more personal concerns such as love, family, happiness, and disappointment.