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Visual Studies & Central Academy of Fine Arts, Beijing | Academic Exchange Program and Art Exhibitions

April 9, 2012  by: Dom

Beijing work session

Beijing work session

In 2010, the Dept. of Visual Studies at UB embarked on a very exciting academic and cultural exchange with the Central Academy of Fine Arts (CAFA) in Beijing. It has now grown into a full collaborative effort between the two institutions, resulting in the opportunity for Visual Studies MFA graduate students to work closely with their Chinese counterparts at CAFA in realizing intensive, productive residencies and high caliber art exhibitions in both countries and, to be published soon, an ambitious project publication.

CAFA is one of the top two premier art academies in China, and one of the most venerable, established and influential (in 2008, it was identified as “China’s top art school” by The New York Times). It excels in both traditional training and cutting edge experimentation in wide-ranging fields from art history and theory to interactive digital design for public space. It boasts an illustrious roster of alumni now successfully circulating in the international art milieu, including Xu Bing, Zhang Huan, and Xing Danwen (the guest critic during the Beijing final critiques). Importantly, CAFA is located in the dynamic, culturally bustling, international hub city of Beijing.

During spring of 2010, the pilot exchange between Visual Studies and CAFA took place: three senior CAFA faculty members, Professors Wang Huaxiang, Li Xiaolin and Gao Rongsheng, came to UB for a one-week residency in the Dept. of Visual Studies; subsequently, three VS faculty members, Profs. Millie Chen, Joan Linder and Stephanie Rothenberg traveled to Beijing with the first group of UB Study Abroad students. Profs. Rothenberg and Linder used CAFA as a base from which to teach graduate and upper level undergraduate students of both UB and CAFA, and explore the cultural environment of Beijing. This first residency culminated in a dynamic UB/CAFA student exhibition at CAFA and, later, at UB.

In March 2011, Profs. Millie Chen, Reinhard Reitzenstein, Ben Van Dyke, and eleven Visual Studies MFA students traveled to CAFA to participate in the second exchange, starting an intensified academic exchange and the generation of research/creative collaborations between Visual Studies MFA graduate students and advanced undergraduate CAFA students. This year’s exchange was developed by Profs. Millie Chen and Li Fan (CAFA) to support the production of new student artwork generated by cross-institutional and cross-cultural collaborations, and to result in a student exhibition of professional caliber for presentation in Fall 2011 at the University at Buffalo Art Galleries and at the Today Art Museum in Beijing in Spring 2012.

Two weeks prior to the opening of the resulting exhibition Buffalo Beijing: Translation at UB Art Gallery (Sept.16-Oct.22, 2011)*, Prof. Li Fan and his seven students arrived in Buffalo; the students continued working with their Visual Studies partners in finishing their projects. Collaborative art making is complex in and of itself. Despite the fact that cultural divides and language barriers were added to this mix, all participating artists rose to the challenge, even surpassing it in many cases. The result is profound cultural exchange, the blossoming of lasting friendships, and a professional exhibition of high caliber.

In early 2012, the Buffalo Beijing: Translation exhibition opened in Beijing for display at the Today Art Museum/Today Print Arts Center (Mar.18-Apr.1, 2012).

The last element in the current exchange project is now underway and slated to be completed this summer: a 400-page publication that charts the challenging and complex process of cross-cultural collaboration, and documents the impressive artworks.

The participating faculty and Chairs, with nods from their Deans, at both UB and CAFA intend to continue this fruitful cross-institutional, cross-cultural academic and artistic collaboration. After a successful pilot exchange in 2009/10 and an exhilaratingly productive and rewarding full-year exchange in 2011-12, what is planned for future development of this exchange program is the continuation of artistic collaboration at the graduate level, resulting professional caliber exhibitions in both cities, and potential faculty exchange.

* The Buffalo chapter of the exhibition was organized as part of the New York Conference on Asian Studies 2011. The 2011 two-part exchange between the Dept. of Visual Studies at UB and CAFA in Beijing, including the Buffalo Beijing: Translation exhibition at UB Art Gallery, was co-sponsored by The Confucius Institute at the University at Buffalo, as well as the Dept. of Visual Studies (UB), Central Academy of Fine Arts (Beijing), and the UB Art Galleries.

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