Huang Yong Ping installations bring Chinese controversy to Nottingham Contemporary

By Mark Sheerin | 04 May 2011
Colour photo of a reconstructed splyplane in a gallery with suspended bat
Huang Yong Ping, Bat Project IV (2005)© Walker art center, Minneapolis. Courtesy Huang Yong Ping and Yu De Yao
Exhibition: Huang Yong Ping, Nottingham Contemporary, Nottingham, until June 26 2011

Nottingham Contemporary has a timely show by a leading artist from China with an international reputation and a history of being censored. But it’s not Ai Weiwei; it’s Huang Young Ping, and the pressure has all come from Western governments.

Bat Project IV, which can here be seen in Europe for the first time, was once thought to pose too great a threat to Sino-Franco-American relations to be shown in France. In fact, there were several failed attempts to get the sculpture off the ground.

Then again, the work does deal with a plane crash. In 2001 a Chinese jet collided with a US spyplane. Bat Project reconstructs the American plane and fills its cockpit with eponymous beasties, feared creatures in the West and a symbol of good luck in China.

But the controversial work did make it to a touring show in North America and finally to UCCA in Beijing. In its final form, Huang’s elaborate metaphorical installation was able to fly under the Chinese government’s radar. Ai has been more direct and critical.

The other difference may be nationality. Huang is an exile working in France but, unlike Ai, he has never felt compelled to post images of his Chinese passport online.

Nevertheless, loaded subjects do make it into Huang’s work. Looking at the minaret, the dead elephant and the Buddhas in Nottingham you may wonder how he gets away with it. But we have wondered that about a Chinese artist before now.
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