Xu Tan “Searching for Keywords”

Xu Tan Keywords

Searching for Keywords

November 28, 2007–February 9, 2008
opening reception November 28 6–8pm


“Searching for Keywords”, an interactive multimedia installation created by Chinese artist Xu Tan will be presented in Location One’s main gallery from November 28th 2007 though Februrary 2nd, 2008.

Xu Tan’s work deals with the hidden motivations and intentions of individuals through a high-tech analysis of their vocabulary. “Searching with Keywords” is the New York leg of an ongoing project which the artist launched in 2005. It began with a series of interviews of different groups of people who are active in Chinese society: a first set of interviews were carried in the Zhangjiang Hi-tech Park, a sort of Silicon Valley near Shanghai, a second set covers different cities and people from all walks of life, from writers, to real estate developers, to Buddhist monks, to businessmen; and a third was conducted among the artistic community in China. The video interviews were then carefully analyzed, and Xu Tan has identified 100 keywords based on meaning (social values), frequency (repetition), sensitivity (political), and popularity (trendyness). These Keywords reveal much about the values and motivations of contemporary Chinese society, they give a pulse of the current social climate, and present an insight into the collective social consciousness of China.

The project will be unfolding simultaneously in Beijing, China, in Sittard, Holland, and in New York, through a website created specifically for this happening. Gallery audiences in New York will be invited to interact with the keywords, which are presented by means of four video projections and four computer stations equipped with laptops, video cameras, and Internet connections. The goal is to have gallery visitors pronounce the keywords as illustrated in drawings and video clips, to ask questions of the artist thorough an on-line forum and message board, and to leave comments. Their reactions and input will be immediately transmitted through the website to the other venues where the installation is present.

While the artist is present in the gallery he will also conduct interviews of different people and the analysis of these interviews will in turn generate other keywords that will help reveal the opinions and attitudes of a western audience towards the current status of China and its role in the global environment.

Xu Tan was born in Wuhan, Hubei Province in 1957 and currently lives in Shanghai and Guangzhou. In the early 1990s he joined the “Big Tail Elephant Group” in Guangzhou with Lin Yinlin, Chen Shaoxiong and Liang Juhui. The aim of this group is to develop critical strategies for negotiating the rapidly changing economic and cultural life in China. He was among the first artists to participate in Location One’s International Residency Program in 2002, and his work has been shown around the world including P.S.1 in New York, Biennale di Venezia, Berlin Biennial, Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art in Brisbane, Australia, Guangzhou Triennial, Taipei Biennial, De Appel in Amsterdam. Recent solo shows were held at the DAAD Gallery in Berlin, at the Vitamin Creative Space in Guangzhou, at BizArt is Shanghai.