2017.02.23 Thu, by
Shanghai Project and Rockbund Art Museum present the international conference “AUDIENCES”

[Press release]

People’s Forum: 25 March, 2017, Rockbund Art Museum
International Symposium, 26 March, 2017, Shanghai Project | Envision Pavilion
(No.869 Yinghua Road, Pudong District, Shanghai)

The Shanghai Project and the Rockbund Art Museum are pleased to collaborate and jointly present an international conference, entitled ‘AUDIENCES,’ on 25-26 March, 2017, in Shanghai. As the first initiative in China dedicated to the topic of audiences of contemporary art, this conference includes a symposium and a series of free-form conversations, bringing together leading thinkers and practitioners in the community from both across China and the rest of the world.

The theme of the conference comes from our recognition of the importance and urgency to re-examine the very concept of the term ‘audience’ and its full implications for the people and institutions of today. Indeed, in the past two decades we have seen a new wave of museum explosion in Europe, North America, the Middle East and Asia, and particularly in China, where the scale and speed of growth have reached an unprecedented level. Such progress, mixed with the great social and technological transformations that we are experiencing in the world presently, has brought about multiple challenges. In response – at least in China – most attention and efforts of the museum community have been diverted to specific matters of daily operation (e.g. curation, education, communication, or the legal and financial framework for the museum’s sustainable development), while leaving fundamental issues such as audience largely untouched. Consequentially, the lack of a well-thought-out concept on audiences – one that connects both the history and the future of such establishments – and furthermore, the ability to reinforce vitally important notions, has left many museums lost in contesting demands from their own specific internal and external environments.

Mr. Larys Frogier, Director of Rockbund Art Museum, comments: “Considering the ever evolving global context for museum operations, it is reductive nowadays to talk about the museum’s audience simply as ‘spectator’ or ‘visitor.’ The demands on current museum practices have become far more complex and challenging. From the projects of contemporary artists, which require more involved and varied interaction from the audience, to the extension of the museum’s activities outside of its walls into the urban and social milieu. From the importance of experiencing art and contextualizing its significance, to the inclusion of wider cultural practices in the museum’s life: the responsibility of the museum to its art-goers demands a novel approach to better facilitate their access to the works. It is time to ask how museums can begin to fully support the creation of contemporary art by engaging audiences beyond statistics, mere animations and endless lists of educational activities.”

In response to such challenges, this conference aims to open discussions within the community of contemporary art on how the audience is or could be conceptualised in the 21st century, within the social and cultural contexts that have radically changed in past centuries; and in the process, how today’s ‘media society,’ has affected the formation of audiences, the institutional perception of audiences and the ways in which these two assemblages interact. Moreover, the conference addresses how institutions, primarily museums, can confront new challenges and embrace audience participation through programming and targeted projects.

The core of the program is a symposium at the Shanghai Project | Envision Pavilion, which will explore these issues from multiple perspectives. Keynote speakers from leading institutions and the academic sphere are invited to address the main topics of the conference from diverse approaches and positions: global to local, theoretical to practical, and institutional to project-based. In addition to the keynote speakers, independent curators, researchers, museum directors, media representatives and practitioners at the forefront of such exploration from across China will be brought together in panel discussions with the keynote invitees.

The conference will also include a series of free-form conversations at Rockbund Art Museum. The ‘People’s Forum’ manifests as 12 30-minute conversations centring on the topic of ‘audience,’ to be proposed and lead by local researchers, artists, curators, media, as well as the general public. The conversations are presented in the exhibition space of Song Dong’s solo show at Rockbund Art Museum, interwoven with the visitors and the artist’s works, activating the artist’s idea of ‘art without boundary.’ Proposals will be selected from a public open call, and should cover a wide range of views, ideas, visions, people and formats, providing alternative approaches to the topics discussed at the symposium.

It is believed that with its divers formats of exchanges, this conference will stimulate further thinking and debates about the audience of contemporary art in our time, as well as inspire innovative actions in different contexts. The progress and outcomes of the conference will be presented in the form of a publication, which would include the essays and documentation of the anticipated activities.

Dr. Yongwoo Lee, Executive Director of Shanghai Himalayas Museum and Co-artistic Director of Shanghai Project, says: “As an audience-oriented, multidisciplinary knowledge platform, Shanghai Project is delighted to cultivate extensive layers of discourse and action, addressing today’s audience politics.”

This conference is co-organized by Rockbund Art Museum and Shanghai Project (Shanghai Himalayas Museum), two leading institutions and initiatives in contemporary art in China. The project is made possible with support from ROCKBUND, an Urban Renaissance, Shanghai Himalayas Museum, and Shanghai Artemis Art Center (SAAC).

Media contact:
Shanghai Project
Chen Xian: xian.chen@himalayasmuseum.org
Rockbund Art Museum
Stella Wang: stella.wang@rockbundartmuseum.org

About Shanghai Project

The Shanghai Project, curated by Yongwoo Lee and Hans Ulrich Obrist, is an ideas festival that invites researchers from China and abroad to discuss and act on the sustainability of our futures in 2116. The initiative experiments with the ways in which people engage with ideas, by providing multiple points of entry through diverse disciplinary backgrounds and formats. This model is a reflection of our everyday lives, in which no object or idea exists in isolation. Shanghai Project Chapter 1 consists of a series of performances, exhibitions, open calls, talks, works, hops, walks, and screenings, all of which began last summer and officially debuted on September 4, 2016. The project’s explorative events and research will culminate in the Chapter 2 exhibition launching on April 22, 2017. The Shanghai Project is organized by the Shanghai Himalayas Museum, co-organized by the Shanghai International Culture Association, with lead sponsors Envision Energy and Zendai Group.

About Rockbund Art Museum

For over 6 years RAM has been at the forefront of the growing contemporary art scene in China, presenting world-class programmes in a unique museum setting. A boutique Museum of the upmost quality.

The museum’s exemplary curatorial, education and research programmes showcase acclaimed and emerging Chinese and international artists, responding to and reflecting on present and urgent challenges of society locally and internationally. RAM presents a bold and pioneering programme of 3 to 5 exhibitions and a special project “RAM HIGHLIGHT” per year; exploring and realising artists’ most ambitious projects and working with them to tailor exhibitions to the Museum and to the Shanghai context, often with a large proportion of works being new commissions. RAM devises, produces and curates its programme in-house, in conjunction with carefully selected international collaborations of the highest quality.