How is Art experienced?

How is Art experienced?


3 months

Chinese arts centre, Manchester, 2009



A Performance & Research project from Yingmei Duan in collaboration with the Chinese Arts Centre in Manchester

I have been a practicing artist for 19 years, during the last 11 years of which, I have been residing in Germany. Since 2000, I have worked exclusively in the area of live art. In my exploration of live art, I have developed a large number of performances and performance installations that combine a specifically created environment with the artist’s body. Some of my performances such as “Bedroom” have a set running time, which is as long as 8 months. This interaction with the audience creates a special bond that requires a certain amount of investment on their part. This is particularly rewarding with viewers from a non-arts background and their responses have often fueled further works. I often create impulsive and spontaneous performances as situational experiments, reacting to a particular space or environment but in contrast others are developed with intense attention being paid to the last detail. 

At the centre of my live art practice is an exploration of human instincts, longings, and dark desires. I examine the processes of society and question its conventions and behaviours.

As a Chinese artist living in Germany I am particularly influenced by different cultures and contributing to the relationship between Europe and China through my live art practice.

It is my belief that live art, above other forms of visual art, has the greatest potential to connect with society through its directness and spontaneous relationship with an audience.

Since 2008 I have been working on a collaborative performance project with the artist Feng Weidong. This project, “Filial Piety”, relates to the Chinese notion of Xiao Sun, which translates to the love and respect for one’s parents and ancestors. This is considered one of the first and most important virtues in China. Feng and I have used ‘Filial Piety’ as a common starting point in our performances even though our subsequent representations of this virtue are diverse. As society is changing, people’s moral consciousness and attitude towards “Filial Piety” are in a constant state of change. The performance attempts to capture and mirror the clashing and distance that often characterises different generations in China. Feng and I have been researching the relationships between different generations within the Chinese family structure, allowing an audience to question, explore and understand the current problems in China.

Over the past few years huge developments have taken place in China and the economy has grown enormously. Chinese people have had to adapt to this very quickly and have found themselves with much improved social conditions and personal wealth. When I last visited China, I noticed an overriding obsession with wealth from many of the people with whom I came in contact. This fixation with money seems in some way to replace the desire for culture within contemporary Chinese society. It is my opinion that art has a necessary role within society and it is important that I use my live art practice to highlight this. 

From my experience in many countries in Europe, art is ingrained into the fabric of society. It is a tool for education as well as a form of entertainment and the influence of art can be seen in many aspects of society. In contrast, the notion that art has the ability to effect social change is not such a commonly held belief in China. It is my intention to use my residency at Chinese Arts Centre to investigate how art is experienced in the UK. 

The research will focus on the many facets of art education, both within schools, universities and evening classes but also within the museum and gallery sector. These organisations provide an important supplement to art education to all levels of children as well as adults, which enhances the way art is taught in the UK. I plan to expand my research to Germany and China and I will collate the feedback to create a dialogue and debate between arts educators, arts professionals and the wider public.

In addition, I will also use my residency period to create a series of live art works and experimental workshops that I will realise within Chinese Arts Centre.

This project is supported by the Ministry for Science and Culture of Lower Saxony