GENDER IN CHINESE CONTEMPORARY ART

 

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GENDER IN CHINESE CONTEMPORARY ART

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Ma Qiusha, From No.4 Pingyuanli to No.4 Tianqiaobeili, 2007, single channel video, 7’53”, image courtesy of the artist

 

On the 22nd February I’ll be speaking at a symposium organised by Tate Modern on gender in contemporary art, looking specifically at how artists are exploring gender through digital and mediated spaces. The programme for the symposium is listed below. It offers a fantastic opportunity to hear artists including Ma Qiusha, Nabuqi and Ye Funa talk about their practice. Tickets for the event are now available via the Tate Website. 

TATE MODERN

22nd February. 14:00-18:30

This international symposium will explore the role that gender has played in the development of Chinese contemporary art.

Co-organised by Tate Research Centre: Asia and Central Academy of Fine Arts China, the symposium is split into two sessions. The first will give a critical overview of the subject, including a paper by Monica Merlin that will provide a history of contemporary art by women in China, a paper by Ros Holmes that will take up the new condition of artistic creation and distribution through digital and mediated spaces, and a panel discussion moderated by Wenny Teo. The second session will focus on individual practices, with artist presentations from Nabuqi, Ma Qiusha and Ye Funa followed by a discussion moderated by Song Xiaoxia.

By engaging the history of women’s artistic production in China, this symposium seeks to recuperate an often-elided narrative, while also asking what it means to be a woman artist working in China today, and whether gender still matters in contemporary practice.

Gender in Chinese Contemporary Art is part of the multi-venue collaborative exhibition NOW: A Dialogue on Female Chinese Contemporary Artists, which examines the positions adopted by women artists within the ecology of contemporary China. Through a series of exhibitions, commissions and events, NOW explores diverse artistic practices which transcend notions of gender difference to offer multi-faceted perspectives on contemporary social realities.

Programme

14.00 Welcome by Tate and Central Academy of Fine Arts China

Session 1: Critical Framework

14.20 Introduction by Sook-Kyung Lee, Tate Research Centre: Asia

14.30 Rethinking Women Artists and Gender in Contemporary Chinese Art
Monica Merlin, Birmingham City University

15.00 No More Nice Girls: Celebrating the Ugly and the Artless in China’s Online Spaces
Ros Holmes, Christ Church, Oxford University

15.30 Discussion and Q&A moderated by Wenny Teo, The Courtauld Institute of Art

16.00 Break

Session 2: Voices of NOW

16.30 Introduction by Wang Chunchen, Central Academy of Fine Arts China

16.45 Nabuqi

17.00 Ma Qiusha

17.15 Ye Funa

17.30 Discussion and Q&A moderated by Song Xiaoxia, Central Academy of Fine Arts China

18.30 – 19.30 Reception

Gender in Chinese Contemporary Art is co-organised by Tate Research Centre: Asia and China Central Academy of Fine Arts. Supported by the China National Arts Fund and British Council, Beijing.

Tate Research Centre: Asia has been generously supported by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Book now

January 15th, 2017

Chinese Artist: Censorship Stems From ‘Bizarre And Ridiculous Sort Of Fear’

By: Jiang Zhi         Source: SUPChina         Date: 9/1/2017

Translator’s note: The Shenzhen-Hong Kong Biennale of Urbanism/Architecture — a prominent international exhibition of visual art, sculpture, murals, installations, architectural proposals, urban thought experiments, and events — opened on December 15, 2017, and was struck by controversy the following day, when organizers removed a piece of artwork by the well-known young artist Jiang Zhi 蒋志. The piece reappeared two weeks later in the main exhibition hall, only to be removed again a few days afterward in advance of a tour by local Shenzhen officials.

More than 200 exhibits under the main theme “Cities, Grow in Difference” are still offered around the city, with the primary exhibition site located in Nantou Old Town, a historic “urban village” of the kind that has been systematically demolished over the last two decades. Although an introduction to Jiang’s work can still be found on the website (in both the English and Chinese versions), his physical artwork remains unavailable to viewers. Below is a statement that Jiang wrote in response to the situation. The remaining exhibitions will be on display until March 15. Eleanor Goodman

All text in brackets [] signal editor’s notes.

How has something that was “safe” become unsafe?

Continue reading

January 9th, 2018

Picturing Ai Weiwei in Istanbul

By: Hrag Vartanian      Source: HyperAllergic              Date: 7/1/2018

Sculpture by Ai Weiwei in front of the Sakıp Sabancı Museum and overlooking the Bosphorus (all photos by the author for Hyperallergic)

ISTANBUL — In an era where superstar Chinese artist Ai Weiwei feels ubiquitous, this past summer I experienced the full extent of that reality over the course of two months. After attending a New York preview for his new film about migrants, Human Flow (2017), I traveled to Israel to visit a major exhibition of his work at the Israel Museum in West Jerusalem, then a show of his porcelain works at the Sakıp Sabancı Museum in Istanbul. Shortly after that, I returned to New York City, right around the time his major public art project, Fences, opened. And these weren’t the only exhibitions by Ai being mounted around the world. Continue reading

December 29th, 2017

In Sign of Resistance, Chinese Balk at Using Apps to Snitch on Neighbors

By: Jeremy Page and Eva Dou    Source: Wall Street Journal   Date: 29/12/2017

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Mao Zedong once hailed Fengqiao in eastern China as a model for “mobilizing the masses” to galvanize Communist Party rule. Under President Xi Jinping, there is an app for that.

Launched in Zhejiang province last year, it offers citizens rewards for information as part of a new government effort to meld old-school totalitarian techniques with 21st century e-commerce, big data and digital surveillance.

There’s just one problem: Many people are wary of using the new technology platform.

The “Safe Zhejiang” app enables users to notify authorities of problems ranging from leaky drains and domestic disputes to traffic violations and illegal publications, in text or photographic form, as long as the informants reveal their location and identity.

In exchange, they get perks including discounts at upmarket coffee shops and coupons for taxi-hailing and music-streaming services, as well as for the Alipay online-payment system, run by the financial affiliate of local tech giant Alibaba Group Holding Ltd.

Continue reading

December 13th, 2017

China’s Selfie Obsession

Meitu’s apps are changing what it means to be beautiful in the most populous country on earth.

By: Jiayang Fang       Source: The New Yorker  Date: 8/12/17

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HoneyCC likes to say that she scarcely remembers the last time someone called her by her given name, Lin Chuchu. She took her online name from a 2003 movie starring Jessica Alba, about an aspiring hip-hop dancer and choreographer named Honey who catches her break after a music-video director sees a clip of her performing. Something similar happened for HoneyCC, who also trained in hip-hop dance, as well as in jazz and Chinese folk styles, and was equally determined to be discovered.

After an injury cut short her dancing career, a few years ago, she and some friends set up an advertising business. Many of her clients were social-media companies, and her work for them led to an observation about the sector’s development: first there was the text-based service Weibo, the largest social-media network in China at the time; then people started posting images. “But a single picture can only say so much,” she told me recently. “To really communicate a message, you need a video.”

HoneyCC likes to say that she scarcely remembers the last time someone called her by her given name, Lin Chuchu. She took her online name from a 2003 movie starring Jessica Alba, about an aspiring hip-hop dancer and choreographer named Honey who catches her break after a music-video director sees a clip of her performing. Something similar happened for HoneyCC, who also trained in hip-hop dance, as well as in jazz and Chinese folk styles, and was equally determined to be discovered.

Keep on reading!

November 26th, 2017

Why Hong Kong artists and activists are turning to zines in the digital age

By: Manami Okazaki.   Source: SCMP  Date: 25/11/17

The independently published ‘pocket-sized works of art’ are undergoing something of a resurgence worldwide. In Hong Kong, with its rich printing history, youngsters have discovered a whole other avenue of expression.

 

To the untrained eye, “zines” don’t look like much: pamphlets stapled crudely together, featuring disparate topics and a range of art forms, such as cartoons, illustrations and photography. To collectors, they are pocket-sized works of art, and tools of self-expression.

Keep on reading!

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

November 10th, 2017

Party Poopers

Can art bring down the government? 

By: Louisa Lim       Source: Los Angeles Review of Books China Channel    Date: 7/11/17

LISTEN TO THE PODCAST EPISODE
“Contemporary arts must also take patriotism as a theme, leading the people to establish and maintain correct views of history, nationality, statehood, and culture while firmly building up the integrity and confidence of the Chinese people.” – Xi Jinping, October 2015

In late July, after the death of Chinese Nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo, a ghostlike picturematerialised on walls around the world in Melbourne, Sydney, Ottawa, New York City, Taiwan, Dublin, and even Beijing. It showed images of Liu Xiaobo floating skywards, hand in hand with his wife Liu Xia, with blank white expanses where their facial features should have been. This was the work of Badiucao, a radical Chinese artist who, like Banksy, hides behind a pseudonym. He keeps his identity secret out of caution: “If you’re spreading negative energy like me, drawing criminals of the state, you become a problem.”

Such work was designed with one aim in mind: to survive inside the Great Firewall. To create a participatory art phenomenon, Badiucao uploaded the work so it could be printed out, and purposely made it easy to copy. This led to the second wave of reposts, of the picture appearing on walls around the wall, followed by a third wave of selfies from the different sites. Liu Xiaobo might have disappeared from the corporeal world and the pages of state-run newspapers, but Badiucao was determined he should live on in cyberspace.

In this way, a new breed of Chinese political artists has turned the borderless expanse of cyberspace into a virtual studio, a collaboration space and a digital museum, creating and sharing work about China that might not be shown there. Hong Kong artist Sampson Wong Yu-hin – part of the Add Oil Team with Jason Lam Chi-fai – also created a virtual, participatory homage to the Nobel laureate, asking people to record themselves reading Liu’s famous “I have no enemies” speech, which he was forbidden from finishing in court. The result – mostly in Cantonese – is especially poignant, with the young voices serving as a Greek chorus of doomladen augury. Continue reading

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”.