Exhibition Lecture | Big Tail Elephants and the Cultural Environment in 1990s' Guangdong

Lecturer:Chen Tong

Time:July 1st, 2017  15:00-17:00

Venue:OCAT Institute, Jinchanxilu, Chaoyang District, Beijing (100 meters North from Subway Line 7, Happy Valley Scenic Area Station, Exit B )

Organizer:OCAT Institute

Support:OCT Group

Booking:  The event is free. Please sign up via the official wechat account-ocatinstitute-by providing “the date of event(0701)+name+phone number”

“Big-Tail Elephants”, an art group established in 1991, has been considered as a post-85’ phenomenon. However, in Guangdong where the group was established, hardly anyone would agree that 85’ New Wave Art Movement had ever spread to Guangdong. Therefore, the post-85’ phenomenon of the “Big-Tail Elephants” was rather an early appearance of contemporary art than a belated form of modernism. This can be seen with a reflection of the socio-cultural context of Guangdong in the 90s. In the 1990s, when Guangdong’s economy was growing most rapidly, its cultural environment seemed incompatible with its economic prosperity, nor was it anything similar to that of other mainland cities. It was not an environment under the impact of popular culture of Hong Kong and Taiwan, nor was it the so-called “jing ji da tai,wen hua chang xi”(经济搭台文化唱戏 using economic force to propel the advancement of culture). Instead, resulting from a misreading of Post-modernism, it was a highly individualized local cultural environment characterized by strong, active individual practice that overshadowed the public controversy. Undoubtedly, Guangdong in the 1990s was in the spotlight of the world because of its economic flourish, and although economic growth did not translate readily to cultural development, it surely pointed out the potential of cultural development.


Chen Tong’s cultural practices started in the 1990s and as a result, he was a witness of the emergence and growth of “Big-Tail Elephants”. In this event, Chen Tong will walk with us back to the 1990s’ Guangdong, and tell stories that are related to Borges Bookshop, an independent bookshop and cultural spot that influenced the cultural environment in Guangdong to a great extend. By this lecture, we are also hoping to prove that not only did the “Big-Tail Elephants” played a crucial role in the cultural development back then, their innovation continues to shape our culture nowadays. 

About the Lecturer:

Chen Tong was born in Hunan Province in 1962. He studied in the Chinese Painting department of Guangzhou Fine Arts Academy from 1979-1983, where he has continued to teach since 1986.

He is the founder of the Libreria Borges Bookshop and Libreria Borges Institute for Contemporary Art (CANTONBON), co-founder of Video Bureau, founder of Guangzhou Bonacon Gallery, and the honorary chairman of Wuxing Association of Guangzhou Non-profit Art Initiatives. He is also the curator and editor of many series of books, such as Collection Art Expérimental, Collection Minuit, Collection Labyrithe de l'art, Collection Sybarithe, Collection Recherche sur Robbe-Grillet.

He received Chevalier des Arts et Lettres from French Ministère de la culture in 2010, TANC ASIA PRIZE from The Art Newspaper in 2013, and Yishu Awards for a Senior Critic/Curator in Contemporary Chinese Art from Yishu: Journal of Contemporary Chinese Art in 2016.