Troubled Intentions Ahead: Confusing Public and Private

Troubled Intentions Ahead: Confusing Public and Private

The Split Personality of 2018’s 3rd Beijing Photo Biennial

Essay by John B Turner, Beijing, 10 October 2018


Seldom has the name of an event been so apt as that of the Central Academy of Fine Arts Art Museum (CAFAM’s) ‘Confusing Public and Private,’ the title of the belated 3rd Beijing Photo Biennial, but not in the way intended.

WARNING: PR DISASTER AHEAD!

CAFA Art Museum has a public relations problem. I contacted them several times last year to ask for information about their due third Photo Biennial. I wanted to participate and help publicise it. The first and second biennials, in 2013 and 2015 were international in scope, with challenging contemporary work of a higher standard than the many token “international” photography events that I have seen in China. They also had a top lineup of practitioners and academics to discuss topical issues. Nothing, nothing and nothing came from my web searches and direct enquiries to CAFAM, and nowhere could I find any notice that the 3rd Photo Biennial had been canned or postponed.

I later learned that the head of the Museum, Wang Huangsheng, who is known as a shaker and mover in the art scene had moved on. But there was no news of the expected biennial which I feared had been starved to death. Nobody I asked at the October 2017 International PhotoBeijing week, with which the first CAFA biennial was linked, nor my other contacts could tell me why the most exciting photography event in Beijing had simply disappeared from the calendar?

My early enquiries this year bore no fruit until I met Cai Meng, a curator of CAFAM, at Three Shadows Photography Art Center a month ago. He confirmed that the 3rd Biennial was going ahead but failed to deliver on sending me the information about it. I don’t doubt that he is busy or very busy, because the biennial is such a huge undertaking, but the habitual lack of advanced PR notice, support and follow up in China is beyond a joke. (And I’m not just referring to the occasional English translations.)

To read the full essay in PDF format, click on the image below:

 To read the full essay in PDF format, click on the image above.

To read the full essay in PDF format, click on the image above.

John B Turner was Lecturer in Photography, Elam School of Fine Arts, University of Auckland, 1971-2011. Curated landmark exhibitions 'Nineteenth Century New Zealand Photographs’ (1970); 'Baigent, Collins, Fields: three New Zealand photographers’ (1973). Founding editor PhotoForum magazine 1974, co-editor at present. Studied history of photography with Van Deren Coke and Bill Jay, Arizona State University, Tempe, U.S.A. 1991. Co-author with William Main, New Zealand Photography from the 1840s to the Present (1993). Edited Ink and Silver (1995) and Eric Lee Johnson: Artist with a Camera (1999). Member Global Nominations Panel Prix Pictet Prize, London, 2009 to present. Curated `To Save a Forest.... Photographs by leading New Zealand conservationists: Martin Hill, Ian Macdonald and Craig Potton' for the 2014 Pingyao International Photography Festival. Book of his own work, Te Atatu Me: photographs of an urban New Zealand village, published 2015. Curated 'Tom Hutchins Seen in China. 1956' for PIP Pingyao in 2016 and published a book of the same name. Co-curator with Dr Phoebe H Li of the exhibition and book 'Recollections of a distant shore: a photographic introduction to the Chinese in New Zealand' for the Overseas Chinese History Museum, Beijing, 2016. www.jbt.photoshelter.com