Z.O.U. – Zone of Urgency
Curated by Hou Hanru
« Driven by globalisation, urbanisation and explosive expansion of urban spaces are the most dynamic and challenging aspects in our mutating world today. In different parts of the world, especially in areas like Asia-Pacific region where modernisation and integration in the global economic and cultural systems are taking place in unprecedented speed, urban expansion, often going ahead of any long term planning, radically prompts social divisions and restructuring. Everyone living in the situation has to confront with urgent questions of development, competition and survival while established social and urban fabrics are being deconstructed and re-organised. Traditional urban planning has been surpassed by the “post-planning” reality: the city has become a collage of zones created out of urgent demands instead of regular planning. Certainly, this situation, along with the global migration movement and economic globalization, is increasingly influencing the Western world as well. Urgent solutions have to be invented and practiced in order to create conditions for sustainable development and life.
Today’s city becomes a zone of urgency. It’s against this background that artistic and cultural activities, closely related to the urban transformation, are brought to a new frontier. Artists, intellectuals, activists, in groups or as individuals, along with architects and urban planners, are struggling to create projects, actions and works to negotiate with this reality. It’s out of this process, new ideas and works are generated and become essential elements of redefinition of contemporary art, culture, knowledge and modes of life while spaces for imagination and innovation are opened.
In different parts of the world, especially in “non-western” regions like Asia-Pacific region, new understanding and models of modernity, or different modernities, are being experimented and provide the most active platform of creativity. Artistic practices, emphasizing the interventionist motivations and performative forms, are being developed into real force of social transformation while multidisciplinary collaborations are highly encouraged. On the other hand, to negotiate with the urgency of lack of traditional institutional infrastructures, the art world tend to experiment with more flexible, self-supporting and inventive solutions to create new communities by means of do-it-yourself kind of self-organisations. They reflect to the alternative strategies of resistance and developments initiated by “marginal” communities under the pressure of globalisation. Art and culture practices are brought out to the zone of urgency, and in turn, they are also opening up oppositional zones of urgency as responses to the reality.
The project Z.O.U. – Zone of Urgency, under the general theme of Dreams and Conflicts proposed by Francesco Bonami, intends to articulately present this urgency-response interactive tendency in today’s art experiments and works, notably by those acting in the Asia-Pacific regions. In the meantime, similar experiences from Europe and other regions will be also presented as manifests of the global necessity of such strategies. About 40 artists have hence been invited to participate in the project with multimedia works ranging from painting to installation, from video to performance, from internet website to architectural design… They are covering large domains from urban actions to personal imagination, from historic-geopolitical critiques to political protests, etc. Designed especially for the specific site of the Arsenale, the exhibition’s realisation is to become a process of opening up a unique Zone of Urgency for artistic adventures and dialogues with the public in the conditions of the urgent reality of social transformation. »
Hou Hanru

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