Liu Xiaodong’s Hotan Project

Liu Xiaodong’s Hotan Project

Today Art Museum

Liu Xiaodong, Hotan Project, 2012. © the artist.

August 15, 2012

Liu Xiaodong
Hotan Project

25 August–8 October  2012

Xinjiang International Exhibition Center
No.167 Youhao North Road
Urumqi, China

In Xinjiang we find one of the most interesting cultural scenes in China. This fresh but contradictory scenario that we find in contemporary Xinjiang is fertile terrain for fostering artistic and cultural creation, even though the possibilities available are far from being fully explored. It is here that the intervention of art and cultural works becomes particularly important and even crucial in terms of unveiling the truth behind the exciting but problematic reality. There is vast space for the arts to exercise their capability to influence the real.

The artist Liu Xiaodong has chosen a highly particular, discreet yet categorically relevant approach towards addressing these issues. Instead of a direct exploration and presentation of the highly mediated events of social-ethnic conflicts and other obvious, highly visible spectacles, he prefers to penetrate into and reside within the ordinary lives and surroundings of the working class in Hotan, one of Xinjiang’s most sensitive regions and an area having an enormously rich history. During early June of 2012, he and a small team moved into the area and initiated a two-month project of documenting the lives of the local jade miners.

Continuing with the approach of live painting that he has been constantly developing throughout the years, and notably evident in works like his representative masterpiece, the “Three Gorges” series (2004–2005), Liu Xiaodong sets up his temporary studio under a tent and carries on with his enduring project to document what he witnesses of the scenes of labor and of the local workers themselves, observations which manifest themselves in drawings, diaries, oil painting, photography and other media and genres. A film crew works side by side with him to document the entire process.

Liu Xiaodong’s artistic practice covers a range of multimedia and cross-disciplinary activities of far greater scope than just paintings. Film and literature, as well as historical research, are also central to the process. This feature of his approach obviously invites collaborations with different kinds of professionals such as filmmakers, historians, writers and the like. In tandem with the painting project, the chief curator Hou Hanru has initiated a complex and multifaceted curatorial project which includes field studies, historic research and traveling exhibitions, film screenings, symposia, online publications and more, in order to emphasize the strong relation between the painting project and the cultural context. Ou Ning, co-curator of the project, has been leading a team of researchers and journalists in carrying out a research project on the independent expressions of local writers, historians, musicians, craftsmen and other figures to reveal the reality of the character of public opinions on various issues pertaining to local life.

The first presentation of the project will be an exhibition in the Exposition Palace of Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, and will be held on 26th August 2012. The recently finished paintings will be presented in a radically simple and straightforward yet powerful manner. There will be a two-day symposium with the various experts involved in the research project for presenting their diverse creative activities—literature, music, history, crafts, architecture, and so on—which will be held in a setting reminiscent of the quickly disappearing architecture of the traditional courtyard. Concurrently with these activities, a film documenting the process of Liu Xiaodong’s work will be screened daily at a separate venue. A small publication will be released to accompany the exhibition while a project website ( will be available online and updated regularly.

The second phase of the project will be presented at Beijing’s Today Art Museum in early 2013 and feature the addition of new materials as well as another, new symposium featuring more international participation. A revised and more comprehensive publication and updated website will also be made available.

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