Jiao Xin Tao was born in Chengdu, China in 1970 and graduated from the Sichuan Academy of Fine Arts, Chongqing with a Masters in Fine Arts in 1996. His works are famous for revolving around the theme of consumerism, often featuring often-negligible objects such as discarded packaging and other castaway objects.
Besides having held and participated in several solo and group exhibitions in several regions throughout China, his sculptures have been exhibited internationally in countries such as Germany, Italy and the Netherlands.
The Trivial and Abandoned Daoist Temple Ground - On Reading Jiao Xingtaoâ€™s Recent Sculptures
It is only by putting the art works of Jiao Xingtao against such a backdrop and under such scrutiny and examination can the meaning of his sculptures be highlighted. It is clear that Jiao Xingtao pursues the question of what sculptures can do against the background of contemporary culture in his art form. Unlike the influence on sculptures by installation art, performance art or video art, Jiao Xingtao presents a different dimension, a dimension from within the form of sculpture itself, and through the thoroughness and boldness of his art works, Jiao Xingtao pushes the boundary in sculpture and asks a philosophical question about sculpture.
What makes a sculpture, a sculpture? The answer lies in contemporary culture and society. Contemporary society is a mundane society. In an increasingly ordinary world, the grand objectives that sculpture once had gradually make way for a focus on the â€śsensual bodyâ€ť. The godliness and grandeur it once relied on have begun to fade away with the torrents of contemporary culture. The permanence thatsculpture once prided itself on bewilders before our ephemeral consumer culture, and it now turns to an aesthetic on the ordinary life and common forms which has become an irresistible trend. The works of Jiao Xingtao represent his attempts in objectively understanding the meaning of sculpture again. Among the trivial and cast-away objects, he seems to be looking for the dignity and value of sculpture again, looking for new possibilities when facing modern life. When sculpture bids farewell to a bygone era, when its meaning and values are no longer simply defined by what it represents, the only possibility for sculpture is to turn its attention to new cultural questions and face contemporary life and reestablish the relationship between sculpture and man. Only in so doing can sculpture returns to the temple ground it once occupies.
The castaway objects picked up by Jiao Xingtao actually belong to the bottom of consumer society. After meeting the consumption needs of people, these objects complete their temporal functions and are abandoned. But once abandoned, their wretchedness, dirtiness and filthiness make us disdain to even cast another look at them. Making these castaway objects the subject matter of sculpture seems almost a 180 degrees turn away from the traditional subjects of sculpture. It almost seems to push sculpture to a dead end. Although these objects as the subject matter of sculpture may seem strange, risky and absurd, they clearly did not push sculpture to a dead end, but to the contrary, through these art works inspired by the trivial and the castaway objects, Jiao Xingtao ignites the rebirth of sculpture.
Why do we not look for wisdom from ancient philosophy? Since â€śDao is in fecesâ€ť, why can the form of sculpture not be unexpectedly rescued from desperate situations by turning to presumably meaningless and worthless things, and transforms the ordinary into an aesthetic form? From the trivial and the abandoned, Jiao Xingtao has reconstructed a new Daoist temple ground for the art of sculpture. If sculpture can so provide a new visual experience by transforming castaway objects into aesthetic objects, and re-establish a linkage between waste and our intellect, then why should we not be ecstatic about this rebirth of new sculptural art?
Packaged Desires and Imagination Beyond the Covered Package.
Despite all of this, people may still ask: How did this happen? What caused such a change in sculpture? What is the logical relationship between such change and our contemporary society?
Living in the reality of consumer society provides us with the answer. In this consumer society, products have become the medium between the individual and the society, and consuming has become the evidence of human existence - â€śI consume, therefore I amâ€ť.
The aim in a consumer society is to maximize wealth. Therefore, it must constantly create new desires and needs for the general public. In such a commercial-minded system, packaging takes on a special meaning. On one hand, it inspires and induces our desire to consume and possess, and on the other hand, it strives to establish a new system of signs - connecting the possession of such signs with individual identity and status, and even associating them with personal happiness and satisfaction. All of which creates a rich hallucination based upon a false ground of spirituality.
In Jiao Xingtaoâ€™s sculptures, we note that he pays special attention to the form of packaging, such as all types of packaging boxes, the paper wrapper from a pack of Wrigleyâ€™s chewing gum and various types of objects wrapped in packaging paper. Packaging serves as a kind of cover or cosmetics over our desire. In this consumer society, the value of a product no longer depends on whether it meets our needs, or on its value in kind, but on its symbolic meaning in this exchange system. Just by its packaging and brand it may be sufficient to inspire the desire for consumption. The way Jiao Xingtao distinguishes himself is instead of portraying the vain gloriousness of consumer society like â€śKitsch Artâ€ť or â€śCartoon Artâ€ť, he has chosen the end product of consumerism â€“ its castaway objects.
Instead of focusing on the glorious and shining surface of these objects when they come into our lives, he chooses to capture the sadness and loneliness of such objects when they exit from our lives. This is an irony but also serves as a warning. The materialism of contemporary world is slowly turning people into objects.
Driven by our all-consuming desires, people become machines that continuously ingest and excrete. Jean Baudrillard once said: â€śWe are swallowed, absorbed and then completely eliminatedâ€ť. Claude Levi-Strauss divided it into two types of cultures: the culture of absorption, swallow and pillage â€“ a culture where man eats man, a culture of vomit, elimination and expulsion â€“ a blood-sucking culture â€¦ But our contemporary culture seems to lodge between these two extremes, by means of functional combination, spatial combination, human combination and the most radical form of elimination, and from this necessary repulsion from life, realizes a striking integration from a complete synthesis.â€ť
In the process of consumption and excretion, feces, also a waste, has the greatest tragic impact. Based upon statistics, each year, the British dispose of 2.5 billion diapers, the Japanese throw away 30 million disposable cameras, and the Germans dispose of 5 million home appliances. Globally, the number of bottles, cans and plastic boxes discarded exceeds 20000 billion on an annual basis. The pollution and destruction to our global ecosystem can hardly be imagined!
I believe that in Jiao Xingtaoâ€™s sculptures, he does not merely think of the environmental stresses and issues resulting from all the castaway objects. Instead, he focuses upon the issue from a philosophical and aesthetical point of view. By emphasizing, enlarging, and artistically recreating the castaway objects, he not only explores humanity, desire and packaged desire but also inspires our imagination to penetrate the cover of the packaging and to go beyond the surface. He tries to reconstruct the mutual relationship between man and object, to re-establish the subjectivity of humans, and to form a special dialogue between us and our castaway objects. Modern man lives in a time absent of communication, guarding against the outside world and full of misunderstandings. When we turn to a visual scene that is related to matter and desire, Jiao Xingtaoâ€™s sculptures carefully demarcates the visual relationship between man and matter: â€śtrue liesâ€ť and â€ślying truthâ€ť - the objects are vivid and convincing, but transformed; they are common but also stunning; they are familiar but strange. These works provide us with an odd and conflicting emotion - a satisfaction that originates from their intimate connection between our experience in consumption and their hyper realistic recreation, together with the absurdity and oddity stemming from such objectsâ€™ enlarged and transformed packaging forms, form a sense of â€śhesitant happinessâ€ť. Based on objects with which we are familiar, our guardedness and misunderstandings clear up, and from this common visual experience, a certain understanding and communication begins to emerge.
I believe that it was never the intent of the creator of such objects to preach something specific to us or to deliberately tell us something. I admire more the exact and calm observation which is reflected in these works. They are silent and discreet, at times blurring the line between sculpture and real objects, between the boundary of vision and touch. Sometimes it casually shows trails of man made interference by the artist, like the objects oozing outside the boxes or and reversing the packaging signs.
If the function of packaging is to inspire our desire to purchase and induce us to peel off the packaging, then Jiao Xingtaoâ€™s sculptures that borrow the form of these castaway objects are meant to induce us to trace their â€śbeginningsâ€ť through the â€śendsâ€ť of their being discarded - Imagination beyond the covered surface. This exercise makes our viewing experience becomes an intellectual exercise. The castaway objects, the packaging materials, and the viewing experience itself now all take on a metaphysical dimension.
Delicate Handicraft and Meditation in â€śMatterâ€ť
The greatest harm that can befall art in this era of consumption is the neglect of intellectualism and inner wisdom. Speed and mechanical reproduction make thoughts hollow, shallow and unreal. The best way to be present in â€śmindâ€ť is to be present in â€śbodyâ€ť. Only so can â€śmindâ€ť realize the â€śbodyâ€ť to which it attaches. Contemporary art has both conceptual ideologies and physical methodologies. When an artist moulds by hand, and it gradually evolves into certain ideas over time, such physical and mental unification in experience helps art to maintain its rightful value and dignity.
Although this series of Jiao Xingtaoâ€™s work exhibit strong conceptual values, they also underscore technical skills, the process of molding and shaping over time, which is one of the key reasons for the attractiveness of his works.
Only when an artist is physically engaged with his work can his art carry his physical signs. And only at this juncture, we can realize the importance of technical skills, which serves not only as the vital evidence of the mental capacity of the artist, but also the necessary means to carry out artistic goals.
The relationship between technical skills and art is actually akin to that of art and the body. All techniques are extensions of the physical and nervous systems in power and speed. In Jiaoâ€™s art works, we can see his methodologies in making grand proportions of seemingly small objects and delicately recreating the castaway objects. Without delicate hand work and precise attention in execution and devotion to details, the amazing visual effect in his art works could not have been achieved.
Jiao Xingtao once said: â€śWhat is most important is the meaning in the process of existence (through the process of clay sculpture) to me and to the viewers. I like the act of tracing the state of objects. Through this process I feel peaceful and relaxed, without the need to think, and transcend to a higher experience. I focus on the various complex rises and falls and subtle changes in the forms of the objects, and try to materialize the softness, fragility and transience of such forms in my art works. Each time, when faced with the finished clay work, I am touched and proud â€“ is this a little absurd? But it is the truth. When compared with the complexity, randomness and disorder of the object which I sculpt, a single-colored clay sculpture brings me a feeling of solemnity, like a monument.â€ť
I believe this feeling of Jiao is real. Besides these recent art works, Jiao Xingtaoâ€™s previous sculptures of welded-metal also evoked strong feelings of being manufactured. The efforts of the artist not only lie in the process of creation, but it is also a process of meditation in â€śmatterâ€ť. The relationship between man and matter, mind and body, will always contain Zen wisdoms which we may never comprehend. Loftiness and humility, absurdity and solemnity, flippancy and seriousness, reality and imagination, all twisted together as our diverse society.
It is only through the process of meditation in â€śmatterâ€ť that sculpture begins its journey back to its substance. And only through this process which is common and universal to all and at all times, can a sculptor when facing his inner questions, be filled with sincerity and respect in his heart.
|2010||"Be", Solo Exhibition, Chongqing Organhaus Art Space|
|Nature of China :Contemporary Art Documentary, Suzhou True Color Museum|
|â€śReshaping Historyâ€ť Chinart from 2000 To 2009, Beijing China National Convention Center, China|
|2009||First Chongqing Young Artists Biennale, Chongqing Convention Center|
|"Diagonal" Contemporary Academic Sculpture Exhibition, Luxun Academy of Fine Arts Museum of Art|
|2008||International Exhibition of Sculptures and Installations Venice|
|2007||Floating : New Generation of Art in China, National Museum of Contemporary Art,Korea|
|2005||China Contemporary Experimental Bust Sculpture Exhibition, Tianjin Academy of Fine Arts Museum of Art|
|2004||10th National Art Exhibition, Beijing National Art Museum of China|
|2003||First Beijing International Biennale, Beijing National Art Museum of China|
|2002||â€śChongqing Chilisâ€ť Contemporary Art Exhibition Kassel, Germany School of Arts and Design, University of Kassel|
|2000||Qingdao Sculpture Museum|
|1999||9th National Art Exhibition, Beijing National Art Museum of China|