Prof. Miao Xiaochun
DAAD Scholarship 2002
Present and past, tradition and modernity, Asia and Europe – these are the dimensions that Beijing-based artist Miao Xiaochun tries to interlink in his photographic works. The topics derive from his own life experience: Miao Xiaochun was born in the Chinese city of Wuxi (Jiangsu Province) in 1964. Due to its rapid economic growth the city also became known as "little Shanghai". In 1982, he moved to Nanjing to study and then, four years later, went to the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing, where he graduated in 1989.
Who am I? Where do I go? Who judges me?
His first visit to Europe and Germany followed in 1995. It lasted five years. He returned to Beijing in 1999, where he currently holds a professorship for photography and digital media at the Central Academy of Fine Arts (CAFA). His DAAD scholarship took him back to Germany for a three-month stay at the School of Art and Design in Kassel.
The days in which his studio only measured twelve square metres are long gone, as are the exhausting attempts to sell his pictures and avoid the censors. Miao has long been recognised by the international art scene and is represented at biennales around the world. His work is also regularly presented in Germany, whenever the focus falls on Chinese contemporary art. His studio is now a hall of 300 square metres. He is an artist who enjoys a lot of freedom in China. However, his work is still quiet and philosophical rather than loud, colourful, and provocative. It is characterised by a sensitivity for cultural nuances that knows how to use the artistic luxury of aesthetic freedom.
For a while Miao had his alter ego reappear in each and every picture in the form of the classical Confucian scholar. He came across the idea of a fibreglass double while he was in Kassel. The black and white photography As a Guest of a German Family (1999) shows him seated at a table amongst a group of Germans. In his photo series Last Judgement in Cyberspace Miao explores the work of the same name in the Sistine Chapel using digital colour technology, but nevertheless continues to perform a cultural balancing act. "I've never seen the original fresco by Michelangelo," he said in an interview with the online magazine artnet. "However, since the 1970s, illustrated books with the most important international works of art, including Michelangelo's sculptures and paintings, have been circulating in China."
What fascinated him particularly about the fresco, apart from the 390 perfectly portrayed figures, is the antithesis between Christ's omnipotence and man's impotence when facing the Last Judgement. "What do the figures on the murals see at this moment?" Miao asked. "I didn't look at the question from a metaphysical perspective, but rather from a technological one," he explained.