Beijing Art Show Excludes Earthquake Pieces

The Beijing Biennale is now on, though some of the more controversial exhibits have been canceled. From CBC:

Under the joint artistic direction of Zhu Qi and Marc Hungerbühler, the giant show focuses on emerging and mid-career artists.

Zhu Qi revealed on Monday that some controversial works had been removed from the program over the weekend.

Those works include performance pieces which used some contentious figures such as Runner Fan — about a teacher who posted an article on the internet admitting he fled the crumbling school during the quake ahead of his students — and another one concerning popular blogger and lawyer Liu Xiaoyuan.

Other exhibits including a documentary about the May 2008 earthquake in Sichuan, in which 90,000 people were killed, and memorial to a 12-year-old who died in the catastrophe have disappeared from the official show.

The Wall Street Journal blog has more about the exhibit involving Runner Fan:

Among the Chinese artists slated to participate was high school teacher Fan Meizhong, who is perhaps better known, infamously, for having run out of his classroom during last year’s Sichuan earthquake, leaving the students behind.

Mr. Fan defended his actions on his blog, describing himself as someone “with a very strong sense of self-protection.”

“Whenever there is danger, I react quickly and run fast,” he wrote. The comments made him the target of fierce criticism, with angry Chinese Web users nicknaming him “Fan Paopao” (“Running Fan”). At a time when the whole country was searching for heroes following the devastating earthquake, Fan became such a controversial figure that he was soon fired from his job teaching Chinese language and literature. (In December, he finally found a new job with a language training center in Beijing.)

At the 798 Biennale, Mr. Fan was slated to be part of a performance art exhibition titled “the Soulful Society VS the Net Spirit” (社会魂vs网络魄). In addition to Mr. Fan, other well-known participants included Wu Ping, a Chongqing woman who held out against developers seeking to knock her home down, and subsequently became known as “the toughest nail house owner in history” and noted blogger/lawyer Liu Xiaoyuan. The performance piece was described as involving “writers who have garnered attention through individual efforts given the technological advances of today’s society.”

Early last month, when the news first came out that Running Fan had been invited to participate in the performance art segment of the 798 Biennale, it made headlines all over the Chinese-language media.

See also the official Biennale site and an article from ArtDaily.org.