Vancouver International Centre for Contemporary Asian Art

Yellow Signal: New Media in China


Artists: Wang Jianwei & Kan Xuan

Guest Curator: Shengtian Zheng

March 17 – April 28, 2012
Opening: Friday, March 16, 2012 8:00 pm
Curator’s  Talk:  Saturday, March 17, 1:00- 3:00 pm at Centre A
With Shengtian Zheng
co-presented with the Contemporary Art Society of Vancouver

Lead Donor: Yu Yu, Urbanova Centre of Art & Design

Support Circle: Jack and Maryon Adelaar, Karen Coflin, David Cousins, Karen Gelmon, Roger Holland, Richard Mew, Michael O’Brian Family Foundation, Bernard Wolfe


“Yellow signal”-to proceed or stop, a dilemma Asian artists are facing.

A series of exhibitions of new media works from China

“Yellow Signal” is a metaphor suggested by Vietnamese-American artist Dinh Q Le during a discussion in Ho Chi Minh City on June 19, 2010. He said: “Many of the artists in Vietnam look at government policy towards contemporary art as a yellow signal, unsure as to whether it will let art proceed or make it stop completely.” In response, Chinese artist Wang Jianwei proposed the idea of a “yellow signal commonwealth” which he defines as a communal state of ambiguity, heeding neither to red signals nor green signals from systems of authority in Asian countries. Artists have to make their own choice.

“Yellow signal” is not only a political circumstance faced by many Asian artists but also a challenge that artists elsewhere may run into in their creative practices. “A yellow signal brings uncertainty and also a feeling of caution and awareness,” Wang Jianwei noted. Yellow signal is about limitation and possibility, choice and chance, confusion and self-confidence.

New media art has developed rapidly in Mainland China during the last two decades. “Yellow Signal: New Media in China” represents the best Chinese artists working in this field and includes those who are internationally recognized as well as those who have emerged recently within Mainland China’s vibrant art scene.

-Shengtian Zheng, February 2012



Centre A is pleased to lead the exhibition presentations with artists Wang Jianwei and Kan Xuan, guest curated by Shengtian Zheng.  Based in Beijing, Wang Jianwei is an internationally acclaimed artist and pioneer of video and multimedia art.  He is known for his conceptually complex, multi-faceted explorations of contemporary Chinese life. Kan Xuan is a mid-career woman artist working primarily with video, photography and installation. She uses simple, clear images to express her desire for a more direct and unique understanding of life.  Her works are always characterized with humour, deep irony as well as lightness and grace.

At Centre A, Wang Jianwei presents “Go to the Conference Room on the 13th Floor for Free Films” – chapter four of his epic video work “Yellow Signal”, originally presented at Ullens Center for Contemporary Art, Beijing (2011). For Centre A, the artist has re-conceived the original work as a four-channel. Using elements of theatre, philosophical inquiry, artistic methodology and “scripted accident”, the artist presents us with an obscure and complex world that simulates everyday life.

Kan Xuan presents two video works, “One by One” (2005) and “Nothing!” (2004).  “One by One” is a single channel video work using a rotating camera to capture a group of security guards under the sun. The surrounding sounds are common and recognizable ambient sounds of the city.  “Nothing” is another single channel video in which an unseen female protagonist responds to its surroundings in a gleeful voice. Using a camera lens as a stand-in for her acutely tuned eye, Kan is creating works with a precise attention to detail, inverting the significance of an object’s scale to give tiny things great attention.

Yellow Signal: New Media in China is the first presentation of these critically-acclaimed works by Wang Jianwei and Kan Xuan in Canada. Yishu: Journal of Contemporary Chinese Art will launch a special issue on Yellow Signal in May 2012 featuring an in-depth interview with Wang Jianwei by Shengtian Zheng.



Wang Jianwei, Chapter Four: Go to the Conference Room on the 13th Floor for Free Films, 2011, video installation, Ullens Centre for Contemporary Art, Image courtesy of Wang Jianwei’s Studio, co-produced with Long March Space.

Kan Xuan, One by One, 2005, video. Image courtesy of the artist

Kan Xuan, Nothing!, 2005, video. Image courtesy of the artist