Mar 24–May 14, 2006

China – Between Past and Future

Photography, Opera, Music, Film, Lectures, Conference

Traditions, historical breaks and the latest developments within art: the festival offers visitors a chance to experience how one of the world’s most important countries is dealing with rapid social and cultural changes. The programme examines the development of new forms and new individual languages in the fine arts, music, opera and literature, as well as their relationship to China’s fascinating traditions.

Photographs and video works by forty-eight artists—radical perspectives and monumental dialogues with Chinese reality—form part of the most comprehensive presentation of modern Chinese photographic art ever seen in Europe. The exhibition attracted huge crowds in New York and Chicago. Opera performances present the unparalleled virtuosity of the artistes performing in Chinese music theatre. They can be seen in works ranging from an opulent performance of Chinese history at the Komisches Oper, to experimental solo performances of the most important opera styles, to the première of an avant-garde opera with the musicians of the Ensemble Modern – currently the best ensemble for contemporary music here in Germany. The Ensemble Modern is also premiering works by composers from China who, over the past few years, have gained renown as the “new wave” in concert halls from New York to London to Beijing. China’s past and present are vividly present in the readings of works by Gao Xingjian, Nobel Prizewinner for literature, Mo Yan, the author of the Red Sorghum and a number of young authors too. These readings provide a panorama of Chinese literature: from sedate epic depth, to the fast-moving tough prose of the megalopolises. The Celluloid Revolutions retrospective shows a century of Chinese film: from the silent film classics to the “New Wave” that followed the Cultural Revolution to productions shown at this year’s Berlin Film Festival.

The programme opens with a discussion on the different European and Chinese perspectives about how to appraise and deal with the traumas of the 20th century: the genocides and the Cultural Revolution. An international symposium is devoted to the theme of Cultural Memory: cultural heritage as it is incarnated in a country’s material cultural products and immaterial traditions. These questions provide a springboard for exciting artistic and political debates.

Thirty years after the Cultural Revolution and three decades after the death of Chairman Mao Zedong, Chinese society is changing at an ever-faster rate. The festival China – Between Past and Future shows contemporary artistic responses to these dramatic transformations.

For this international project, the Haus der Kulturen der Welt (HKW) is proud to have brought together the opera performer Tian Mansha, the musician and writer Liu Sola, the literary scholar Ackbar Abbas, the curator and art critic Wu Hung, the American curator Christopher Phillips as well as the film scholar Dai Jinhua.

Many national and international institutions are working together with the HWC to make this project a reality, including the International Center of Photography and the Asia Society in New York, the Ensemble Modern, the Komische Oper Berlin, and the Federal Agency for Civic Education, as well as exhibition venues such as the Victoria & Albert Museum.

Funded by the Hauptstadtkulturfonds.

Cultural partner: arte