Wang Qingsong on the Venice Biennale and Squid Ink Pasta

One of the hottest contemporary artists, Beijing-based Wang Qingsong creates photographs much like directing a movie, with huge casts and elaborate sets. His work is often a biting critique of consumerism and the radical societal changes resulting from China’s economic boom. Wang is currently represented in the Chinese Pavilion at the 55th Venice Biennale with the works shown here. It was a pleasure catching up with him in Venice.

Christine Kuan: How does it feel to be part of the prestigious Venice Biennale?

Wang Qingsong: I am very happy and excited. I have been to the Venice Biennale four times; this time it was very different because there are more exhibition walls in the Arsenale. It was well-presented like in traditional art museum exhibitions. There were also many vitrines and exhibition booths, which seemed almost like documentary exhibitions introducing the origin of science and technology and popularizing the general knowledge of humankind. It lacked the usual wild and crazy artworks in the wild and rough space of the Arsenale, which in the past went together well—rough space with rough art. In the Giardini, I found many dead artists were selected. Overall, the show is of great interest, but I personally didn’t find it to be a superb show.

CK: Do you feel your photographs worked within the context of the other artworks in the Chinese Pavilion? Which was your favorite pavilion?

WQS: Usually, one exhibition cannot show all of the works in good company. This time, there were differences between the artists, lacking connections to some extent, as you suggest, among the artworks. But for each artist, it is in a way good because each work stands out from the discord. From a curatorial point of view, it does not work well. But I enjoyed the Chinese Pavilion a lot this time, and I also liked the Russian Pavilion a lot.

CK: What did you like most about Venice?

WQS: The seafood, the lobsters. Other Italian food varieties are also very good, like squid ink noodles. Of course, the climate and weather in Venice is much better than Beijing.

CK: What is your next big project?

WQS: A long feature film—a dialogue that talks about life and death.

Wang Qingsong is one of China’s leading contemporary artists. He was born in Heilongjiang Province in China and studied painting at the Sichuan Academy of Art. His photographs can be seen in public collections worldwide, including Asia Society, International Center of Photography, Victoria and Albert Museum, National Gallery of Victoria, J. Paul Getty Museum, National Art Museum of Brazil, Mori Art Museum, SFMOMA, and others.