The theme of this exhibition is straightfor­ward, despite its suggestion of obscurity. Its title, “The Unseen”, a simple term with easy access, is a point of departure for a vast range of possible meanings that touch on the complexity of ways of seeing, blindness and envisaging, especially with respect to visual art.

The Fourth Guangzhou Triennial: The Unseen
28 September – 16 December 2012

Curators: Jiang Jiehong and Jonathan Watkins


The Unseen, focusing our attention on the invisible, or even the uncertainties of their existence, by no means precludes the visible. In Chinese, it can be translated as jian suo wei jian, literally, ‘to see the unseen’. The Unseen refers to the limitations of our sensory organs, the narrow confines of human perception on the one hand; on the other, paradoxically, it gives rise to observations that transcend famil­iar experience.

The Unseen is apprehended as a visual jour­ney through both space and time. Concerning the former, it might refer to distance – some­thing perhaps light years away or, simply, hidden behind a wall – or that which is veiled, wrapped, or confined. It can signify slip­page between different political and cultural realms, so that what is easily seen in our milieu is unseen in others, and vice versa. In order to pursue the Unseen, we are obliged to communicate through cultural diversity, whereby politics, class, race, and identity can be reinterpreted or misinterpreted, with accu­racy lost in translation. Furthermore, it asserts a present tense and provides instant space for imagination. Neither the past nor the future presents itself in reality, and so each genera­tion is bounded by its own Unseen.

The Unseen has been appropriated to create a variety of versions of history, which lead to different ideological, moral and cultural prop­ositions, simultaneously to shape anticipation and anxiety with respect to the future. Beyond our grasp of the material world, the Unseen resides in impulses that resist representation, in realms of desire. For those with a spiritual tendency, towards ‘the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen’,it constitutes faith in an infinity beyond the finite, in an eternity beyond the ephemeral.

The Unseen has wide appeal, embracing and belonging to each of us. The exhibition provides a space for reflection, visually-led thinking, practice and reading, a platform to be shared by artists and others for creative dialogue around sustainable, extendable and transformable philosophical positions. It is about what we know and about the unknown; it is about our belief, the rationale of incredu­lity, and the assurance of hope. The Fourth Guangzhou Triennial is set in three different areas, each area serving a different function: the Guangdong Museum of Art, as an exhibition space, the Guangzhou Opera House, as a performance space, and the Grandview Mall – one of the largest shopping centres in Southern China – as a public, non-museum space.

The Guangdong Museum of Art
38 Yanyu Road, Er-sha Island, Zip: 510105, Guangzhou, China

Ignasi Aballi, Giovanni Anselmo, Vladimir Arkhipov, Angie Atmadjaja, Felice Beato, Thomas Bewick, Alice Cattaneo, Chen Chieh-Jen, Ruth Claxton, Michael Craig-Martin, Du Yun, Marcel Dzama, Harold Edgerton, Dan Flavin, Ceal Floyer, Yukio Fujimoto, Gao Shiqiang, Franz Gertsch, Graham Gussin, Ham Jin, Ham Kyungah, Han Kyung Woo, Hu Yun, Huang Ran, Sofia Hulten, Ann Veronica Janssens, Jiang Zhi, Tim Johnson, Kan Xuan, On Kawara, Lee Seungae, Leung Chiwo, Liu Wei, Li Wei, Vladimir Logutov, Lu Yang, Lutz and Guggisberg, Madein Company, Miao Xiaochun, Francois Morellet, Kingsley Ng, Timur Novikov, Trevor Paglen, Cornelia Parker, Katie Paterson, Giuseppe Penone, Susan Philipsz, The Propeller Group, Josef Robakowski, Jadwiga Sawicka, Jonathan Schipper, Shen Shaomin, Shi Jinsong, Dayanita Singh, Sui Jianguo, Tan Ping, Ron Terada, Amikam Toren, Tu Weizheng, Rikuo Ueda, Wang Yuyang, Xiao Yu, Zhang Dali, Zhuang Hui

The Grand View project: Grandview Mall
Tianhe Road No. 228, Zip: 510620, Guangzhou, China

Colin Chinnery, Graham Gussin, Guest, He An, Li Wei, Madein Company, The Propeller Group, Tof, Wang Jianwei, Yang Zhenzhong , Zheng Guogu, Zhou Xiaohu, Zhuang Hui and Dan’er

Opera House project: Guangzhou Opera House
1 Zhujiang Xi Lu, Zhujiang New Town, Tianhe District, Guanghzou

John Cage, Du Yun & Claire Chase, Katie Paterson, Tashweesh

Read more about Guangzhou Triennial