“The Art of Transculturality: New Frontiers in Postsocialist China’s Avant-garde and Urban Culture”


I’m currently in Switzerland for a 2 day conference hosted by the University of St. Gallen and organised by Prof. Daria Berg and Dr. Giorgio Strafella. I’ve included the original CFP below along with the detailed conference programme. The conference’s focus on the role of new media and the impact of the so-called ‘digital turn’ on art and literature should provide for some stimulating discussions and exchange and I look forward to sharing my findings from the conference in the coming days. For those interested in attending, general admission to the conference is free and you can register for tickets here.


This conference aims to explore innovative ways of looking at the dynamics of transculturality in postsocialist China’s avant-garde and urban culture by bringing together artists, writers, art curators and scholars. Avant-garde literature and art today exist at the margins of China’s officially ordained culture.

Transcultural trends transform China’s local culture in the age of globalisation. In twenty-first century China the new media — in particular Web 2.0 — offer an emerging public sphere that challenges the mechanisms of government censorship, allowing transcultural trends across China’s virtual frontiers. Web-based discourses traverse the borderlines between China’s officially ordained culture, the globalising world, and Chinese vernacular culture.

China’s new generation of avant-garde writers and artists push the boundaries of vernacular culture. They appropriate artistic and literary languages from the post/modern Western avant-garde movements to reflect on reform-era China’s transformation and the Maoist heritage.

The papers will investigate such forms of transculturality in avant-garde Chinese literature and art, focussing in particular on performance and conceptual art. Participants will look critically at the processes of appropriation of transcultural trends and the interpretation of avant-garde languages in contemporary China. During the workshop Chinese avant-garde artists will present and discuss their artistic production and methods. The workshop will shed new light on the transcultural trends and proactive interaction with non-Chinese communities and histories in China’s avant-garde literature and art.


Day 1 – 28 July 2016, 9:00-17:00

Opening Remarks


“Borderland, Minority Culture, and the Non-Han Other in Chinese Avant-gardists’ Fictions” – Liu Xi (The University of Hong Kong)

“Taiwan Sound Poetry” – Cosima Bruno (SOAS, University of London)

“Transcultural Encounters in Feminist Poetry from China: Zhai Yongming and the Unofficial Journal Yi” – Justyna Jaguscik (University of Zurich)

“Consuming ‘Boys Love’: Female Fantasy and the New Queer Discourse in China” – Xi Tian (Bucknell University)

“Transculturality in Hong Kong Artist Annie Wan’s Conceptual Ceramic Art” – Silvia Fok (The Hong Kong Polytechnic University)

“‘Words Divide, Pictures Unite’: Egalitarianism and Encryption in Xu Bing’s Book from the Sky(1987-1991) and Book from the Ground (2005-2014)” – Wenny Teo (The Courtauld Institute of Art, University of London)

“Is That Leg Loaded? Ai Weiwei, Instagram and the Politics of Networked Images” – Ros Holmes (University of Oxford)

“Narrating and Critiquing the Avant-garde in Contemporary China: The Case of Body Art” – Daria Berg and Giorgio Strafella (University of St Gallen)

“Play into Art: Cao Fei” – Enhua Zhang (University of Massachusetts Amherst)

Day 2 – 29 July 2016, 9:00 – 12:00

Keynote Speech: “Of Other Worlds to Come? The Avant-garde and the Politics of Chinese Transculturalism” – Andrea Riemenschnitter (University of Zurich)

Roundtable discussion with Katie Hill (Sotheby’s Institute), Rachel Marsden (The Temporary  / Birmingham City University), Achim Mittag (University of Tübingen) and Silvia Pozzi (University of Milano-Bicocca).

Closing Remarks