Tag Archives: UCCA. Ullens Center for Contemporary Art

Epoch, Beijing 2006 – 2012 at the Centre for Chinese Contemporary Art

13th January, 2017

Epoch, Beijing 2006 – 2012
新时代,北京 2006年至2012年

Works by Helen Couchman, Beijing 2006 – 2012
CFCCA, Centre for Chinese Contemporary Art, Manchester, UK.
27th January – 19th February 2017

(Installation shots of the exhibition can be seen here.)

Helen Couchman lived and worked in Beijing for nearly seven years, having arrived on the Trans-Mongolian Train No. 4 at Beijing Main Station in early 2006 and then leaving for a project in New York City at the end of 2012. In that period, she created a number of works. Some involved printmaking, both etching chine-collé and using a technique traditional to Beijing – woodblock printing. Couchman’s body of work during her time in Beijing also included installation, photography, drawing, collage, performative pieces, giving talks and tutorials, and publishing books. All were in response to her particular surroundings in those years.

Those years. Ask any historian to define a period or an era. They argue endlessly about when one era ends, and another begins and over just what defines an age. How to identify the beginning of an era? What constitutes an epoch’s end?

The question becomes even harder when considering the history of China and where China is today. Did Couchman witness the ‘Post-Mao Era’? The ‘Post-Tiananmen Age’? It was a time of Olympic fever. Was the Beijing of “One World, One Dream” already beginning to fade as Couchman departed in 2012, only to be replaced by the more nationalistic concerns of a new leader for a new era: Xi Jinping and his specifically “China Dream?”

Looking back at the time between 2004-2013 from the perspective of the present, Couchman feels nostalgia for a moment come and gone. Beijing (or at least the nearby city of Zhangjiakou) is getting ready for the Winter Games of 2022. But compared to the excitement and anticipation which gripped the city and its people in the run up to the 2008 Summer Games, the atmosphere feels muted, the excitement less palpable.

In 2008, China reached out to the world and Beijing was radically re-sculpted. The song, “Beijing Welcomes You,” was played almost non-stop that year as the city was made orderly for the games, but some asked who might be excluded from that welcome. An unintentionally prescient question it turns out, as the period Couchman worked in Beijing did constitute a particular era, one that in 2016 many look back upon with the same nostalgia as Couchman.

The air is better in China in 2016 than it was a decade ago and new Internet applications make life for urbanites easier. The country is in a much stronger position internationally both in economic and strategic terms.  No doubt these are successes.

But there are growing restrictions on expression with new pressures on scholars, artists, and non-governmental organizations.  The domestic Internet offers a range of conveniences at high speed, but access to the outside world shrinks year on year. Galleries close. Film festivals cancel. Critiques of the state and society are dismissed as being influenced by nefarious foreign forces. It is as chilly an intellectual and artistic climate as at any time in the past three decades.

Couchman’s chose to work in Beijing, responding to Beijing in a particular period. These pieces represent a window not just into a recent past in Beijing and China, but also to an alternate vision of a future. One that embraces the kind of international cosmopolitanism celebrated in Beijing in 2008 and then again a year later with the Shanghai World Expo. The values of the Olympics, the opening of hearts and minds to friends from abroad, made this a special time for all living in Beijing.

We are all products of our culture, but we are also products of a shared humanity. It is what connects art, subject, and viewer.  It is what gives us common cause to embrace visitors to our home or to reach out across the world to make new friends. It was in this spirit that Couchman made these works, images of what turned out to be a very special era in Beijing.


CFCCA exhibition. Helen Couchman 2017

CFCCA website: Above, WORKERS, below, interview filmed at TAV, Tiapei, Taiwan


新时代,北京 2006年至2012年
Epoch, Beijing 2006 – 2012

Helen Couchman的作品,2006年至2012年,于北京
CFCCA, Centre for Chinese Contemporary Art

2006年初Helen Couchman乘坐着横穿蒙古的第4号列车抵达了北京火车总站,便在北京生活并工作了七年,此后于2012年底离开,前往纽约的一个项目。在北京的那段时间里,她创作了许多作品。她运用了版画技巧,既有蚀刻版画,又有雕版印刷(即北京的传统技巧,但对她来说却是一门新技术)。Couchman在北京期间的工作还包括装置艺术、摄影、绘画、抽象拼贴画、表演艺术作品、讲座及教学,还发表了一些书籍。所有这些都来自于她在那些年里对周围特殊环境和事物所作出的反应。








UCCA from the website, Self portrait with Long Life Earrings

Poster on the UCCA, Ullens Centre for Contemporary Art, Beijing website. The image used is ‘Self portrait with Long Life Earrings’ by Helen Couchman for the artist’s talk, ‘China Stories – Collecting and Dropping, China.’ 2011.

Talk – UCCA, ‘Collecting & Dropping. China’

12th May, 2011

UCCA flyer/poster, Self portrait with long life earrings.

China Stories with artist Helen Couchman: Collecting & Dropping. China. 2pm Sunday 15th May at UCCA, Ullens Center for Contemporary Art, 798 Art District, Beijing.

北京市朝阳区酒仙桥路4号798艺术区 北京8503信箱

【文化项目】UCCA中国故事系列16:HELEN COUCHMAN:收集与丢弃 – 中国

嘉宾: Helen Couchman
Helen Couchman在威尔士和英格兰的肯特郡,史塔福郡,汉普郡长大。1991年,她前往伦敦;在那里她拿到了约翰爵士卡斯学院的美术学士;在1998年,她拿到了圣马丁艺术学院的批判美术实践 的美术硕士。Couchman女士曾经在英国和全世界进行全范围的展览,也在居住期间经常创造出新的艺术作品,而这些作品也曾在个人作品张中展示。 她曾在塞浦路斯艺术学院担任驻地艺术家(2003年),美国佛蒙特艺术中心(2005)。在2006年,C偶充满女士接受了来自中国的工作邀请,而这次经历激发了她的个人展示灵感。 作品“礼物”在2006年北京的大山子国际艺术节展出。 在2007年初搬至北京后,在2008年6月Couchman女士出版了她的第一本书,工人(WORKERS)。至今Helen 仍在北京继续她的生活和艺术创作。

作为一个在北京居住地英国艺术家,Helen Couchman在2007年12月也就是2008年奥运会之前,独自来到了鸟巢体育馆的建筑地址。她要求一些建筑工人摆出了143个迷惑的造型,并捕捉了这些不知名的建筑工人的脸朝向这个令人兴奋的城市的瞬间。(1)
Couchman 上一年在伦敦的展览“云系列,黄线”的灵感源自于她在北京上空的一次飞行:“这些杰作的漫不经心的开头展示的是当(我)坐的飞机在向北京这座神秘的大都市降落时,出现了一层很薄的亮黄色的云层,之后飞机迅速地穿过这些细线。而从地面是根本看不到这些细线的,只能看到一片蓝色的天空。带点讽刺意味的是,英语中有“每片云都有银色的线”来表示任何坏事情都有其积极的一面,当然有可能这种积极面起先没有被发现。现在的这个情况却被反过来了,清澈的蓝天被一层不可见的橙色薄雾穿透了。而在不详的黄色中很难看到“银色的线”。(2)
(1) Helen Couchman 《工人》 (Soloshow Publishing, 2008)
(2) “云系列, 黄线” 2009,摘自 ‘Sheltering from the Storm’ 发表于Leonardo Journal Transactions 2011年3月
作者Bronaċ Ferran,皇家艺术学院, 伦敦


Guests: Helen Couchman
Helen Couchman in Wales and England, Kent, Staffordshire, Hampshire grow up. In 1991, she went to London; where she got a bachelor’s Sir John Cass School of Fine Arts; in 1998, she got a Master of Fine Arts St. Martin’s critique of art practice the Art Institute.Often created during Ms. Couchman in the UK and around the world we have full range of exhibitions, but also to live a new work of art, and these works also show the individual works Zhang. She has served as artist in residence (2003) at the Cyprus College of Art, Vermont Art Center (2005). In 2006, C even accepted the job offer full lady from China, but the experience inspired her personal showcase inspiration. Works “gift” in 2006 Beijing Dashanzi International Art Festival on display. After the beginning of 2007 moved to Beijing in June 2008, Ms. Couchman published her first book, the workers (WORKERS). Helen has still Beijing to continue her life and artistic creation.

On the theme:
as a British artist living in Beijing, Helen Couchman in that is, before the 2008 Olympic Games in December 2007, he came to the Bird’s Nest stadium alone building address.She asked some construction workers put the 143 confusing shape, and captures these unknown construction workers face toward instant this exciting city. (1)
Couchman exhibition in London last year, “says series, yellow line” inspired her over Beijing’s first flight: “at the beginning of these masterpieces of casual show is when (me) to sit in the aircraft Beijing this mysterious metropolis landing, appeared thin layer of bright yellow clouds, the aircraft quickly after passing through these thin line. And from the ground is not see these thin, only to see a blue sky. a little ironic that, in English, there is “every cloud has a silver piece of line” for any bad thing has its positive side, the positive side of this is of course possible at first not to be found now This situation was reversed, the clear blue sky was orange layer of invisible mist penetrated while in an unknown yellow is difficult to see the “silver thread.” (2)
(1) Helen Couchman “workers “(Soloshow Publishing, 2008)
(2) “Cloud series, yellow line” of 2009, taken from the ‘Sheltering from the Storm’ was published in Leonardo Journal Transactions 2011年3月
OF Bronaċ Ferran, the Royal College of Art, London

UCCA, China Stories. Self portrait with Long Life Earings by Helen Couchman

UCCA from the website, Self portrait with Long Life Earrings



In conversation – UCCA Beijing

20th September, 2009


“Breaking News” 2: Art and Culture – 20 Years of Report Evolution

At Ullens Center for Contemporary Art (UCCA) Sunday, 20th September, 4pm

Guest Speakers: Caroline Puel and Helen Couchman

Caroline Puel, European and French citizen, born in 1963, has been following China policy for the last 25 years as a young diplomat, student, journalist and writer. Graduated from the Political Institute in Paris (Sciences Po), she studied Chinese at the French Institute for Oriental Languages and The Chinese Institute of Diplomacy, she quitted diplomacy in 1988 to become a journalist. War correspondent between 1989 and 1996 (China, Cambodia, Vietnam, Afghanistan, India, Pakistan, Indonesia, first war in the Gulf, Iran, Irak, Nicaragua, Yugoslavia) she has been in charge of Liberation office in Hong-Kong between 1993 and 1997 and founded the China Office for Liberation and Le Point, based in Beijing in 1995. She quitted Liberation in 2000 and has developed Le Point Asia Office (based in Beijing). Le Point is now the first French language news magazine. She is also chronicler for Radio France, Radio Suisse Romande, Art Critic (author of more than 15 books about Chinese Contemporary Artists) and Lecturer. She teaches journalism and China Contemporary History in Sciences Po Paris. Founding member of the International Women’s Forum Asia (steering committee), President of Sciences Po Alumni Club in China, member of the jury for the best Chinese translator Fu Lei Prize, She received the Albert Londres Award (EQ. French Pulitzer Prize) for her coverage of China.

Helen Couchman was born in 1973 in England and studied art in London, first a B.A. in 1996 and an M.A. graduating in 1998. She has always had a fascination for travel and have when possible worked abroad, working in Armenia, USA and Cyprus. When she first came to Beijing arriving off the Trans-Mongolian train from Moscow she was immediately interested by the city, because of a long held interest in the country and in particular in places that are changing fast.

Couchman’s project WORKERS 工人 (2008) celebrates the workers who have built the iconic buildings to house the Beijing Olympic Games. The book documents 143 men and women working on the building site and their signatures. Couchman’s practice often focuses upon buildings, landscape and during the last four years in Beijing the notion if the ‘gift’. Having spent some time at the Olympic site she quickly realised that her interest lay with the people who were making this new city possible. So for the first time she made a portrait project that was constructed of portraits of people other than herself. Both her previous exhibitions here in Beijing’s 798 Art District – Gift (2006) and New Work (2007) focused on ideas of exchange and the WORKERS 工人 book stemmed directly from that. Because the participants took home a 15x20cm portrait of themselves there are now homes in the provinces these migrant workers hail from with the portraits either treasured or on display.

Couchman is now preparing two new pieces of work to be exhibited in London in November and a new book, Mrs. West’s Hats, remembering her grandmother.

* * *

“独家号外”系列 2: 艺术与文化-20年发展报告

生活在中国已近20年的Caroline Puel 对中国的社会发展有着深刻地认识,与我们一起回顾中国文化的发展变化,并讲述在过去的20年中法国媒体对中国发展的看法。


蒲皓琳 (Caroline Puel),欧洲和法国公民,1963年出生。过去的25年里,以留学生、记者、作家以及外交官的多重身份在中国生活,并熟知中国的政策。

Helen Couchman,1973年出生在英格兰,在伦敦学习艺术专业,1996年她获得了学士学位,1998年获得了硕士学位。她总是对旅游充满了热情,只要 有机会她就会到国外工作,美洲,美国和塞浦路斯都是她工作过的地方。第一次从莫斯科乘火车穿过蒙古来到北京时,她一下就对这个城市充满了好奇。因为这是她 一直以来所向往的国度由其是这里的快速变化。

Couchman的工人(2008)项目赞美那些建造了北京奥运会上标志性建筑的工人们。这 本书记录了143位男女工人在施工现场的照片以及他们的签名。Couchman的实践经常集中在建筑,景观,在北京过去的四年中她的观念是“礼物”。在北 京奥运会场馆的施工现场工作一段时间后,她很快发现她的兴趣全部集中在让新城市成为可能的人们身上。因此她第一次做了一个肖像项目, 是由这些工人们的肖像构成的而不是她自己。她之前在北京798艺术区举办的展览–礼物(2006)和新工作(2007)都主要体现了其想法的转换,《工 人》这本书的梗概也由此而来。那些参与拍摄的工人们都带回家一张他们自己的15x20cm的照片,它们现在都陈列在这些工人的老家,或是珍藏或是展示。



Left to right: Lucy Hornby our MC and long time correspondent for Reuters. Caroline Puel correspondent for Le Point who has been in China since 1984. Coco our translator and myself.