Culture in Keywords
xutan-keywords.gifSince 2005 the Chinese artist Xu Tan has been developing research about individual psychology through the examination of language and the power of words, in particular. This project started with a group of video interviews conducted with different people in Chinese society. A first set was carried out in China's 'Silicon Valley' near Shanghai. He then talked to people with several professional backgrounds, from monks to businessmen to writers. Finally, he covered the Chinese artistic community. After analyzing the video interviews, the artist, as he said, 'identified 100 keywords based on meaning (social values), frequency (repetition), sensitivity (political), and popularity (trendyness).' For Xu Tan, these keywords 'present an insight into the collective consciousness of China.' 'Searching with Keywords,' currently on view at New York's Location One, constitutes the latest manifestation of this work. Although unfolding simultaneously in various locations, including Beijing, it is in New York that gallery-goers have a chance to contribute to the piece. Four computer stations within the gallery allow viewers to participate in an online forum that connects the different, exhibiting venues. The artist is also conducting video interviews during the show, the analysis of which is generating new keywords that reveal the attitudes of a Western audience towards his country. This new data will bring a fresh, critical perspective to Xu Tan's interpretation of China's rapidly changing identity in global culture. - Miguel Amado