CFP: Agile Objects: The Art and Anthropology of Re-materialization

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I am co-convening a panel at the Royal Anthropology Institute’s Art, Materiality and Representation conference hosted by the British Museum/SOAS, 1st-3rd June 2018 and I would like to use this blog post to warmly invite paper proposals for our panel “Agile Objects: The Art and Anthropology of Re-materialization

Call for papers is open now until 8th January 2018. To submit a paper, please see: https://nomadit.co.uk/rai/events/rai2018/conferencesuite.php/panels/6075

Further details can be found below

(P025) Agile Objects: The Art and Anthropology of Re-materialization

Convenors:  Ros Holmes, University of Oxford (ros.holmes@history.ox.ac.uk) and Emilie Le Febvre, University of Oxford (emilie.lefebvre@anthro.ox.ac.uk)

Short abstract

This panel examines the practices by which artists and media-makers from non-Western contexts are progressively re-materializing digital content in order to increase the exclusivity, cultural capital, and visibility of their aesthetic and cultural creations.

Long abstract

At a time in which our experience of cultural artefacts is often physically removed by digitization, this panel seeks papers that consider the practices, politics, and affects of re-materializing artworks from diverse geographical perspectives. The process of de- to re-materialization has been referred to by David Joselit as a ‘comedy of matter’; a situation in which the most ”immaterial” of formats—digital information—has paradoxically led to a proliferation of material states. This metastasizing of media formats can in effect render a quantum of data into a printed photograph, a 3-D print or an analogue sculpture, facilitating a variety of practices from bootlegging and creative appropriation to the return of cultural heritage. These processes of re-materialization have subsequently led to the formation of ‘agile objects’: cultural artefacts whose value may have originally resided in their authentic forms but today are revered for their capacity as digital files to take on several distinct forms simultaneously.

While these practices among artists, media-makers and museums have been the focus of increasing scholarly attention, their theorization and prevalence beyond Western contexts remains largely unexplored. Redressing this imbalance, we premise that art historical and anthropological examinations of re-materialization can provide unique perspectives about the politics of cultural capital from the Near East to East Asia, Australia to Latin America. This multi-disciplinary panel therefore invites papers that consider the transposition of digital content into objects of material, commercial and collectable value, exploring the capacity of these ‘agile objects’ to shape artistic and museum practices.

We welcome papers that critically address re-materialization from disciplinary and interdisciplinary perspectives, particularly from artistic practitioners.

Topics may include (but are not limited to):

  • The role of re-materialization as alternative document and archive
  • Acts of appropriation, ‘bootlegging’ and copying
  • Exhibition histories and collecting
  • Issues of authority, access and ownership
  • Modelling, GIS, 3-D printing
  • Cultural heritage returns and digital repatriation
  • Re-materialization as artistic practice
  • The role that re-materialization plays in mediating our experience of the visual

China’s new viral app could be straight out of Black Mirror

China’s new viral app could be straight out of Black Mirror

By: Eleanor Peake (with a few quotes from me)     Source: Wired    Date: 20/10/17

Getty Images / Pool

A bizarre new game has gone viral in China. Applaud president Xi Jinping for his party speech as fast as you can, and then share your results online.

The Tencent-owned app started to be rapidly shared as soon as it was released on October 18, netting 400 million players by 9PM Beijing time. Since then it has amassed more than 1.2 billion plays.

The game was released following the opening of the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC) in Beijing. The conference and subsequent presidential speech are the biggest events in the Chinese political calendar. Coming once every five years, the series of Party meetings will go on until October 24 and will reset or reaffirm the agenda of the party.

To play the game, you have to first watch a 30-second segment of the Xi’s marathon 3.5 hour speech. In the section of the speech featured on the game (mobile only), President Xi Jinping declares that it is the mission of the Communist Party of China to strive for the happiness and the rise of the Chinese people.

The app lets you clap for Xi by tapping the screen of your phone as many times as you can in 18 seconds. You can then invite your friends to compete with you, sharing your results online and creating further digital content.

Screenshot of applauding President Xi

“In many ways, Xi Jinping has been described as the model of a modern multimedia leader” says Ros Holmes, research fellow at University of Oxford, specialising in popular forms of cultural production in China. “He is frequently across a broad spectrum of digital platforms designed to conflate his multiple roles as a ‘tireless public servant’, ‘skilled international diplomat’, ‘willing workaholic’ and ‘accessible everyman,’” she says.

“This type of propaganda drive is particularly important during the Party Congress,” says Holmes, “when the CCP is extremely vigilant about harnessing the full power of social media positively for the Party”.

The popularity of the game underlines how the Chinese government relies on much more than the power of censorship and control for legitimacy. “It encourages and feeds off popular feelings and mass action, much like the cultural Revolution of Mao Zedong in 1966,” says William Callahan, professor of International Relations at the London School of Economics and Political Science and an expert on Chinese politics.

Screenshot of President Xi giving his speech 

Similarities can be found in the app ‘Xuexi Zhongguo,’ launched in 2015, which provides an educational insight into the teachings of Xi and the Chinese Communist party, as well as attempting to give an interactive playful side to party leaders.

The app translates directly as “Study China,” but is also a play on Xi’s surname, which could suggest the alternative reading of “Study Xi’s China”. In the past five years, the Central Publicity Department, formerly the Propaganda Department has devoted considerable resources to developing videos games which glorify the party and consolidate Xi’s position.

However, Holmes is sceptical of the Tencent app’s popularity. “I suspect that a significant proportion of those alleged ‘400 million players’ were engaging with the game in a more ironic manner than the party intended”, she says. A move which reflects the deeply satirical culture which has emerged in China’s online spaces in recent years, after various censorship campaigns by the State.

“Many of these forms of digital propaganda are clearly designed to humanise Xi and China’s top leaders, providing insights into their personal lives as well as presenting official statistics” says Holmes.

The app comes at a time when Xi has been making moves to further consolidate himself as the central authority in the CPC. The 19th Party Congress is predicted to refocus the role Xi and his central influence on the country. “What is more disturbing than the app,” says Steven Lewis, a C.V. Starr Transnational China fellow at the Rice University’s Baker Institute, “is the way traditional Chinese State media has begun to change how they reference Xi”. The media has begun to use the title ‘lingxiu’ or ‘leader‘ which in the past was used to reference Mao Zedong, from 1949 to 1976.

“Ideologically, the Party has elevated his words to new communist scripture, referencing them as Xi Jinping Thought” says Lewis, which all Party members must read and follow.

However, although Lewis says the app was likely born out of a benign marketing strategy by Tencent to meet their “public service quota”, he adds the real concern for Xi and the party is maintaining its legitimacy in the long-term. “If very bright young people do not join the Party to keep it going then it will wither” says Lewis, “the app contributes to that strategy”.

CENTRE FOR CHINESE VISUAL ART 10TH ANNUAL CONFERENCE: CHINESE ART OUTSIDE THE ART SPACE

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The Centre for Chinese Visual Art is hosting its 10th annual conference this week, which is themed around ‘Chinese Art Outside the Art Space’. As the organisers explain: “Focusing on art made, displayed, performed or executed outside the conventional venues of art museums and galleries, this conference not only offers a unique perspective to understand Chinese art in the contemporary context, but also, more importantly, it aims to critically reflect upon the understandings between art and art exhibition, between artistic productions and audience perceptions, and between art and our daily life. The unique programme of this confernece will focus on the questions, problematics and investigations around the theme of ‘art outside the art space’ in China.”

Date: 12-13 October 2017

Venue: Lecture Theatre, School of Art, Birmingham City University, B33BX

The full conference programme is included below.

 

Call for applications: (due 10 September) The Judith Neilson Scholarship in Contemporary Art

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The Judith Neilson Scholarship in Contemporary Art

 

The Judith Neilson Scholarship in Contemporary Art has been established to support the study of contemporary Chinese art in its global contexts. The Scholarship provides support for full-time doctoral study to be undertaken through the Department of Art History at the University of Sydney.

 

We invite applications from highly motivated individuals interested in engaging deeply with issues related to contemporary Chinese art, global art cultures, and transcultural studies. Prospective students must possess demonstrable research skills, high proficiency in writing in English, and academic experience in one or more of the following fields: art history and theory, Chinese studies, visual culture, and/or curatorial studies. Proficiency in Chinese is strongly preferred. Applications that demonstrate potential for engagement with the White Rabbit Collection are encouraged.

 

Prospective applicants are encouraged to contact Dr Stephen Whiteman stephen.whiteman@sydney.edu.au with questions and expressions of interest. Continue reading

Getting round the Great Firewall of China

I’ve just written a short piece for Apollo on the potential impact of a recent series of online restrictions for the country’s thriving new media scene. The piece can be found online here and I’ve included a copy of the text below.

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A recent series of directives has sought to curtail the already fragile spaces for free expression in China. In June, a new cybersecurity law decreed that companies report the virtual activities of their employees. A month later came the news that Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) – a form of software that enables users to circumvent the restrictions of China’s ‘Great Firewall’ – will be outlawed by February 2018.

Currently only about one per cent of China’s estimated 731 million internet users employ a VPN, but many members of China’s creative community fear that these increased restrictions will have a profound impact on their work. Like their counterparts around the world, artists in China use social media to disseminate their work and connect with international audiences. China has a thriving net art and new media scene, supported by galleries and art centres, innovative online initiatives capitalising on the popularity of social media platforms, a major prize for net art, and a growing body of young artists graduating from the new media departments of China’s major art academies. These developments reflect China’s hyper-networked and mediatised art world and the increasingly mobile culture that has arisen alongside the country’s technological advances.

While many artists eschew overtly political themes, others have chosen to confront the complex and contradictory facets of China’s restricted web, producing provocative and challenging works which not only satirise the government’s cybersecurity initiatives, but also comment on the psychological effects of censorship. The artist Miao Ying, for example, refers to this as her ‘Stockholm syndrome’ approach to the internet in China. Other artists such as Xu Wenkai (Aaajiao) strive to make the mechanisms of the Great Firewall visible, exposing the fault lines between censorship and self-expression. One of the regime’s fiercest critics is obviously Ai Weiwei, who, earlier this year wrote a polemic about the perils of self-censorship, calling for others to reject the ‘China model’ of development, which has promoted economic ascendancy at the cost of political freedom.

Recent developments illustrate that we would do well to heed these criticisms. Cambridge University Press briefly decided to block access in China to over 300 articles from the China Quarterly, one of the world’s leading China Studies journals, at the behest of Chinese censors, before eventually reversing the decision. As China expands its global engagement, seeking to reinvent itself as a 21st-century superpower, the long arm of censorship doesn’t just affect artists and writers within the country itself, but also has serious ramifications beyond China’s borders.

Second conference of the European Association for Asian Art and Archaeology (EAAA), Zurich 24-27th August

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On Thursday I’ll be travelling to Zurich to take part in the second EAAA conference, which is being held this year at the University of Zurich from the 24th- 27th August. A unique gathering of artists, art historians, archaeologists, researchers and students working across disciplines and time periods- from neolithic China to contemporary Korea, the conference promises to offer three days of stimulating discussions and heated debates on all things art related, and will feature keynote addresses by Yukio Lippit and Burglind Jungmann.

As the organisers note: “The main aim of the Association is to encourage and promote all academic and scholarly activities related to Asian art and archaeology in European countries. More specifically, the Association will seek to establish and maintain a platform for the fruitful exchange of ideas, create a forum for dialogue among scholars of Asian art history and archaeology, and provide a setting for the presentation and discussion of new and recent research. Its main activities will include: the organisation of regular biennial conferences, thematic conferences, workshops, symposia, study events, and lectures. The Association will also actively seek out different ways to support young scholars, promote publications and exhibitions, and disseminate information and resources – of all kinds and in all forms and media – related to Asian art and archaeology.” Continue reading

Lin Ke’s interactive ‘Art Book’: where printed matter meets augmented reality

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In 2016 Lin Ke 林科 released a book via Tria publishing that presents a chronological overview of his output from 2010-2016.  As an artist Lin is known for innovative works which explore the impact of digital technology and computer operating systems on contemporary art and visual culture. Integrating images culled from social media platforms with playful subversions of standard software packages and graphical user interfaces, his practice employs screen recording software and programming code to blur the boundaries between real and virtual spaces.

After graduating from the China Academy of Art’s New Media Department (now the School of Intermedia Art) in 2008, Lin began a series of video works which were created without the use of a video camera. Capturing the mundane real-time actions governing artistic creation in the computer age, many feature the artist interacting with his laptop. We view these videos via the computer’s own camera, controlled from a distance with the use of a touchpad as the artist records his own movements to music.

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The resulting mirrored images, with their spectral layering of open windows, screen savers and desktop detritus present us with unsettling self-portraits of the digital age. As we increasingly experience life mediated by digital devices, they reinforce not only the reality of spending eight hours a day staring blankly at our computer screens but also the incursion of these virtual environments beyond the computer frame, personifying the uncanny possibility of a machine that can return our gaze.  Continue reading

Call for papers: ‘Contemporary Chinese Artists in the Globalised Art World’ Journal of Contemporary Chinese Art 5.1

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I serve on the editorial board for the Journal of Contemporary Chinese Art, so I’m happy to announce that JCCA is currently soliciting submissions for an exciting new issue on ‘Contemporary Chinese Artists in the Globalised Art World’ slated to be published in 2018.

The end of the Chinese Cultural Revolution opened an entirely new chapter for modern Chinese history, and indeed, for Chinese art too. In 1993, as a section of the 45th Venice Biennale, Passaggio a Oriente (Passage to the Orient) was one of the first representations of Chinese contemporary art on the global art stage presenting fourteen Chinese artists. Externally, Chinese art started to attract the world’s attention by artists’ frequent participations in long standing art events in cities like Venice, Kassel, Lyon, Istanbul, Sharjah and Sydney, as well as important museum exhibitions and art fairs. Internally, contemporary art exhibition became international from the beginning of this millennium, precisely, marked by the third Shanghai Biennial (2000). The Chinese government’s awareness and anxiety about the internationalisation of cultural and creative industries through urban transformations, the institution of biennials and triennials invented and organised in various cities in China, and the rise of newly founded private art museums and galleries have all played a part in promoting Chinese artists and the development of contemporary art in the international context.

The term ‘Chinese’ in this journal is always cultural and signals a broad sense, to include artists not only from Mainland China, but also Hong Kong, Taiwan, as well as those global Chinese diasporas. The editors of this issue would like to invite article submissions from a variety of perspectives to produce a series of case studies of individual artists (or artist groups) and their work as representative examples of development in Chinese contemporary art within the last three decades. These individual case studies can be based on their artistic lives, conceptual strategies, speculative knowledge, political and social engagements, and methodological approaches to art production in response to the globalised art world today. As such, this issue is designed to stimulate original research, critical thinking and new understanding of Chinese contemporary art.
Timeline

Extended Deadline: *31 July 2017, abstracts due (300 words)*

30 September 2017, full manuscripts due (6-7,000 words)

Publication in Volume 5, Issue 1, Spring 2018

Please send submissions and correspondence to: Principal Editor Jiang Jiehongccva@bcu.ac.uk, with the subject ‘JCCA 5.1’. Please visit Intellect’s website http://www.intellectbooks.com to follow its house referencing guidelines.

Journal of Contemporary Chinese Art is an associate journal of the Centre for Chinese Visual Arts at Birmingham City University.