Chinese translation here
Initiated by three independent curators and avant-garde thinkers – Jiang Jian, Ji Ji, Qian Qian, and Ou Ning – in 2005, Get It Louder (GIL) is the first and biggest contemporary design touring biennale of its own kind in Mainland China. Organised by Modern Media Group, GIL welcomes its third edition this year in October.
By focusing on the young Chinese artists and designers who work in different locations around the world with an average age of 25, the biennale redefines the concept of exhibition and gives the new generation of designers and artists a strong voice. As one of the newest and the most significant art events in China, GIL is considered as a revolution in both the media and design industries of China.
In China, design used to serve politics. Thanks to the economic reform and the open policy, Chinese independent designers started to emerge. Since then, Chinese designers have been through three generations of evolution. The first generation of designers, who grew up in the ‘80s, received their traditional training from conventional art schools. They made their works by hand because computers were not so available at that time. The second generation was raised up in the 90s, the age of computer-aided design programs. As a result of being influenced by the trend of international digital design, they began to know how to use computers and to speak English. The third generation is the designer of today. They have grown up in the age of globalisation and the Internet and many of them have studied and worked overseas. They are proficient in the latest techniques and have a diversely broad vision of art. This is the generation that GIL focuses on. The Chief Curator, Ou Ning, has heard the voice within the passion of these youths, and he wants to “get it louder”. He called them the “New New Designer”, and he said in an interview conducted by Modern Weekly (29 April 2005): ‘The exhibition attempts to put them (the new generation of designer) into China’s 100 year design history, and then evaluates their status and influence in such a context.’ Since 2005, every edition has a fantastic collection of cross-media creations in a diverse range of creative fields, from poster design, illustration, photography, publication, toy design, t-shirt design, fashion, and product design; to animation, moving image, short film, interactive installation, digital media installation, architecture design, urban design, sound art, sound installation, and music performance.
Besides the spotlight on the young artists and designers, the curatorial team of GIL has also redefined the concept of exhibition. ‘Art exhibitions aren’t supposed to be like this’, reported China Daily (24 August 2007) in its review of GIL’s 2007 edition. This is however not a criticism but a compliment. From participants to venues, from exhibition forms to project operation, GIL is nothing like a traditional art exhibition, but is a visual noise from the emerging artists and designers, a passionate carnival for the newest China design industry, an art party for the new generation.
Before GIL, young independent artists, designers, and creative people could barely find a place to show or exchange their ideas, and their self-initiated, original creations were often unnoticed under the surface. ‘I think it’s a kind of accumulation of energy, after reaching certain level, then it is beginning to explode’, Ou said (Modern Weekly, 29 April 2005), ‘there was some kind of sub-culture is shaping up.’ Ou planned to release the energy of every participant: ‘Everyone coming out from the crowd could be a hero. Everyone could be a designer. Let the so-called Masters love themselves alone’ (Modern Weekly, 29 April 2005). Moreover, to give the exhibition an international scope, GIL also invited talented artists and designers from Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Germany, Sweden and the US to give a series of talks and other communications. This year GIL will keep this practice by creating its own convention.
As a touring group exhibition, GIL chooses three to four big cities in China for each edition, such as Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou, in order to ‘broadcast’ the voice of art. The exhibition venues and exhibition models are unprecedented and unexpected. Instead of holding the exhibition at formal art museums or galleries, the curatorial team chooses fresh public spaces to exhibit artworks. Among them, shopping malls might be the most interesting choice. The main aims of GIL are to explore what inspires people’s daily lives, to attract more public attention, and to examine designs and artworks as lifestyles, living attitudes, and as an integral parts of urban culture. Thus shopping malls as a large-scale consumerist space that can embrace thousands of people to interact with art seemed to suit GIL very well. Another reason that the curatorial team chose shopping centres rather than museums is that they are attempting to break away from the conventional exhibition model of biennials. Ou said in the exhibition catalogue of 2007 that they hoped they could get rid of the idea that the exhibition room needs to be a sanctuary, because he believes that the traditional exhibition model failed to let art enter people’s lives and to bring art closer to the public. Moreover, shopping malls have the advantage to allow people to have encounters with art unexpectedly, and to discover artworks while enjoying their leisure time and consumer activities. This is a more effective and efficient way to encourage art into people’s life rather than through rigid education or invariable ways of exhibiting. ‘It’s the first time we’ve put an exhibition in a shopping mall. We need to make sure that whatever we do doesn’t disturb the commercial activities there,’ said Liang Jingyu (Beijing Today, 12 May 2007) who is a principal architect of Approach Architecture Studio. He was in charge of the architecture element of the exhibition in 2005. Like a treasure hunt, ‘a guidebook will be available for audiences to help them track down all the works’, he added. The curatorial team continued this exhibition model in the edition of 2007, and they will also develop this model into a new level in the following edition of 2010.
Moreover, GIL developed a unique marketing method: instead of making money through selling artworks, GIL seeks to sell its advertisement spaces through exhibitions and create opportunities for artists and designers to cooperate with worldwide brands. For example, two main sponsors of 2005 Chivas and Grohe transformed exhibiting artists’ creative ideas and designs into products (Modern Weekly, 29 April 2005).
As part of the whole new concept of exhibiting, GIL has used the idea that ‘Everyone could be a curator’ to encourage participants to be their own exhibition’s curators. Instead of being overruled by one curatorial team, the exhibition and its satellites are selected by several curators including pioneer curators from China, International professionals and even independent participants. In GIL’s 2007 edition, nine curators including four Chinese curators and another five from United Kingdom and Japan formed the main curatorial team. Curators were responsible for their own part of the exhibition. As a whole package, it brought a great mixture of diverse and creative innovation.
At the end of China’s 20th-century, several sound art pioneers Li Jianhong, Jimu and their friends had trouble finding an appropriate place to perform in Hangzhou. To solve this problem, they began to perform at their own home or their friends’. GIL 2007 adored this idea and got it ‘louder’. They applied it to a larger scale and called it Homeshow. Homeshow is the collective phrase for utilizing private spaces to hold small exhibitions, performances, talks, symposiums, and film activities. Traditional performances or shows insist on bringing audiences together to a particular place within a particular period. By contrast, as a natural result of a lack of public spaces for performances in China, the flexible Homeshow blurs the concept of public and private, and develops a new urban interpersonal culture. To borrow Ou’s, concept ‘an exhibition should be part of daily life, which can be easily found everywhere’ (Ou, 2007). More creative ideas can be found as a result of the Homeshows, and the idea that everyone can be a curator is no longer ‘just a dream’.
GIL has become the most successful series of contemporary design exhibitions in China and has attracted over 120,000 visitors in the first edition alone. As China is going through a transitional period from the conservative to the innovative, GIL seems to be a consequence of this current situation, which explains the success of GIL. From a human perspective, GIL plans to let the public put more attention on the social value of creative arts and design, which could assist young Chinese artists so they can focus on the quality of their works more effectively, hence to promote the position of the design industry in China and gain International notoriety. From a sociological point of view, GIL helps to meet the psychological needs of young people as an underprivileged social group, and alleviate latent generational conflicts. Additionally, interactions between the public and art will help the society to form a new lifestyle with art playing a more substantial role, which will eventually be a benefit to the next generation and will help alleviate educational issues in China. Ou believes that in the future, ‘people will no longer do good deeds because of mobilization by the State, but of their own free will. This is remarkable progress for present-day Chinese society, and allows people to perceive the hope of a more civilised society.’(Ou, 2007)
To China, GIL is more than just an unconventional touring biennial. It encourages the younger generation to explore their creative selves; it promotes the design industry of China; it creates a new national and International identity of contemporary China; it gives a voice to emerging artists and designers and it starts the new exhibition age of China. After the success of previous GIL editions it will be interesting to see both public and critical reactions in response to GIL 2010.
‘Get It Louder: Voice of China’s New Design’, Modern Weekly, Alternative Issue 32, 29 April 2005.
Ou, Ning, ‘Everyone is a Curator – Introduction of Get It Louder 2007’, Get It Louder 2007, Exhibition Catalogue, Modern Media, 2007.
He, Jianwei, ‘Artist Getting It Louder’, Beijing Today, Issue 12 May 2007, accessed 8 Sep 2010, <http://www.getitlouder.com/2007/detail.asp?articleid=160>.
Artists, Get It Louder, accessed 7 Sep 2010,