Parsons the New School Contemporary Chinese Art and Artists Analysis Please refer to the assigned readings, write a double-spaced 4-page coherent response

Parsons the New School Contemporary Chinese Art and Artists Analysis Please refer to the assigned readings, write a double-spaced 4-page coherent response paper and address the following questions:In your view, What is art? What are the most fascinating aspects of contemporary Chinese art (i.e. avant-garde? politically provocative? cynical realism? bridging Chinese and Western cultures? etc.)? Among the artworks introduced by these artists, please name three artists that inspire you the most and analyze the artistic-aesthetic style and philosophical meaning of their respective works (i.e. painting, calligraphy, sculpture, installation, architecture, etc.) Please use Times New Roman font 12. Cite the class readings properly and include authors, titles of the readings and page numbers in the reference or cited works section. Follow Chicago Citation styles. ch a p t er on e
Reading and Misreading
Double Entendre in Locally Oriented Logos
h si ng y ua n t s ao
Copyright © 2011. State University of New York Press. All rights reserved.
I
s contemporary Chinese art part of contemporary Chinese culture or part of a Western-centered global culture in this era of
globalization?1 In the past two decades, prestigious museums and
galleries such as the Whitney Biennial, the Venice Biennale, the
Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Pompidou Center in
Paris, and the Guggenheim Museum have featured works by Chinese artists. Scholars and artists alike from both China and the
West (Euro-America) celebrate an ever-booming art industry that
now has added a new member to the club. Some Chinese believe
that the display of works of artists from China in these exhibitions
symbolizes China’s entrance into the world arena of contemporary
art—“China going to the world.”2 This celebration of “worldgoing” assumes that “‘the emerging global culture transcends
national boundaries’; or, as prominent writers in the West such as
Huntington bluntly state, if a culture can help improve the economic development and living standards of other nations, that culture should be shared by all human societies and be called ‘a shared
culture of the human race.’”3 While certain Chinese hold this naïve,
apolitical view, the West celebrates the inclusion of art with a strong
Chinese appearance as the greatly expanded “global [context] of
our time.”4 From a more colonial perspective, this situation proves
that Chinese artists work for “the nations of others,”5 a version of
self-colonization.
In this chapter, I attempt to offer a different reading of the
situation through a reexamination of the process of China’s initial
1
Xu Bing and Contemporary Chinese Art : Cultural and Philosophical Reflections, edited by Hsingyuan Tsao, and Roger T. Ames, State
University of New York Press, 2011. ProQuest Ebook Central, http://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/newschool/detail.action?docID=3407104.
Created from newschool on 2019-09-27 07:53:18.
Copyright © 2011. State University of New York Press. All rights reserved.
2
h s i ng y ua n t s ao
efforts of “world-going” as a means of renewing its culture. In particular, I want to discuss how Chinese artists have applied and still
apply their managed selection of Western discourse, rhetoric, and
semantic elements in art making (and presenting) as a means of
protesting the political control of art in their still officially socialist homeland. As they encounter and participate in the culture of
global capitalism they are playing an important role in the ongoing cultural decentralizing or deterritorializing process of the late
twentieth and early twenty-fi rst centuries. This decentralization of
culture has diversified and diluted the relationship between geographical place and cultural experience, allowing the realization of
interculturality with strong Chinese cultural presence in the international art scene; and, further, advocates art “work that attempts
to frame the framer as he or she frames the other.”6 The process
of recontextualizing a local cultural iconography in a diversified
global environment is more dependent than ever on the network of
relationships that closely influence the artists’ daily life experiences.
This process of interculturality is particularly evident when the
works of Chinese artists interact with the changing cultural background of their audience. The past two to three decades of China’s
foray into contemporary art can be seen as comprising two distinct periods based on the different audiences expected for their
works: before 1989 the dialogue was mostly an internal attempt at
negotiation within a China-defi ned geo-cultural space. After 1989,
cutting-edge artists from China crossed geo-cultural boundaries
and faced mainly audiences whose cultural experiences are nonChinese. Their works, based on both Chinese and Western contemporary art discourse, share both Chinese and Western visual
elements that are neither Chinese nor Western, because they result
from the artists’ borrowing of different cultural presentations, displays, and cultural symbols. For example, Cai Guoqiang’s (蔡国强)
trademark traditional brush and ink calligraphy is replaced by traces
of burnt gunpowder on paper; rubbings of the flat surfaces of architectural structures are reassembled into installations in Xu Bing’s
(徐冰) Ghosts Pounding the Wall (鬼打墙); Chinese characters transformed into unreadable logos are now considered postmodern art
as in Xu Bing’s A Book from the Sky (天书, Figure I.1). In addition to all this, scientific and information technologies have been
brought into the traditional realm of Chinese art, transforming
them from a local cultural practice to newer forms of art. Xu Bing’s
What’s Your Name changes Chinese script into pictorial elements
Xu Bing and Contemporary Chinese Art : Cultural and Philosophical Reflections, edited by Hsingyuan Tsao, and Roger T. Ames, State
University of New York Press, 2011. ProQuest Ebook Central, http://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/newschool/detail.action?docID=3407104.
Created from newschool on 2019-09-27 07:53:18.
Copyright © 2011. State University of New York Press. All rights reserved.
Reading and Misreading
3
to rearrange syllabic units in phonetic languages, or the Romanization of nonphonetic languages. For the fi rst time, with the help of
a computer, Chinese calligraphy-like words can be written and read
in all languages.
Since the 1990s, contemporary Chinese art, which is very innovative both visually and culturally, has been functioning outside
China’s home cultural discourse and markets. Chinese artists often
live and work outside China, outside Chinese cultural expectations,
and in the nations of others. Thus their art has come to be considered part of the postmodern Western cultural environment, where
Chinese artists are allowed to participate in global Western culture;
yet the price Chinese artists must pay is a compromised cultural
position. In their own country, outside of a small circle of artists,
these worldly, famous artists are almost unknown. Although the
Chinese government has somewhat loosened its control over what
artists may produce, it has successfully confi ned this new art within
a very small, closely defi ned area. However, at least some contemporary Chinese artists, in one way or another, manage to participate
in the postindustrial, capitalist institutions of art—museums, the
market, academia, and the media—outside China. Still, they do not
function as the traditionally defi ned, ethnic “Others” within the
Anglo-American worlds that use their works to address the political struggle of these “ethnic Others.” Works by Ken Lum or Gu
Xiong, for example, more typically address issues that Asian Americans and Asian Canadians are concerned with, not Chinese issues.
I will draw on a series of works to argue that Chinese contemporary art began with the zealous subverting of socialist cultural control, and that this subversion, encouraged by the Western
world throughout the 1980s, ended with the students’ movement
in Tiananmen Square in 1989. Shocked by the slaughter of student
protesters calling for freedom and an end to government corruption, and by the government’s suppression and persecution of the
movement, in the early 1990s Western art critics welcomed Chinese
avant-garde artists as an embodiment of the hope that might bring
change to China.7
The fi rst point to be made is that there are two distinct periods
in the contemporary Chinese art movement, the fi rst distinguished
by the artists’ use of Western artistic discourse, and the second
by the intended audience—those for whom the art was made.
These two periods are fundamentally different. In the fi rst period,
China was far from being part of the world art market as Chinese
Xu Bing and Contemporary Chinese Art : Cultural and Philosophical Reflections, edited by Hsingyuan Tsao, and Roger T. Ames, State
University of New York Press, 2011. ProQuest Ebook Central, http://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/newschool/detail.action?docID=3407104.
Created from newschool on 2019-09-27 07:53:18.
Copyright © 2011. State University of New York Press. All rights reserved.
4
h s i ng y ua n t s ao
contemporary art interested few people in the West. To put it simply, the artists then were using the language of Western modern
art to reach an internal audience, hoping to change not just the art
created in China, but also the polity and society—their use of the
localized Western language was aimed at an internal audience in
hopes of changing the art world in China. However, after Tiananmen Square, China was in the international spotlight and its artists, especially after the banning of contemporary art in China (no
exhibitions of such art were allowed for more than a year, between
1989 and 1991) aroused a new level of interest in Chinese contemporary art where some Westerners believed that the new art might
stimulate major social and political change to China.
The second period starts in the aftermath of the 1989 student
movement with the government’s ban of the few leading newspapers and journals devoted to debating contemporary issues, and a
great wave of emigration to the United States. Many artists began
a life of cultural exile, trying to make their way in the Western
countries that had helped them to escape the political pressures of
post-1989 China. Their works entered Western mainstream galleries and museums as never before; they also began to address
international issues, or issues that were relevant in the culture they
now inhabited. This participation in the Western art world and
use of the Western discourse on culture and politics allowed them
entrée into the Western cultural arena. This discourse was the
same discourse that had long imposed a rigid European rule that
infl icted cultural oppression on others: Europe’s cultural authority betrayed through its rejection of other “languages.” The use
of non-European languages in such a situation provides previously colonized subjects an unprecedented opportunity to resist
the oppression and, via their native language, to overcome the
imposed cultural context. Thus, Chinese artists now participate
in the international art market while at the same time advancing
cultural pluralism in the West. These artists bring with them the
visual linguistic references of the Chinese native. Through their
use of such visual references, Chinese artists such as Xu Bing have
created a distinct, if “liminal,” position from which a third cultural
space can be established. My theoretical assumption is that the
international art world, with the participation of speakers of many
languages, consists of a network of “texts” to which all readers
have equal access, choosing the linguistic path speaking through
art that is most familiar to them. As J. D. Botler suggests, “in that
Xu Bing and Contemporary Chinese Art : Cultural and Philosophical Reflections, edited by Hsingyuan Tsao, and Roger T. Ames, State
University of New York Press, 2011. ProQuest Ebook Central, http://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/newschool/detail.action?docID=3407104.
Created from newschool on 2019-09-27 07:53:18.
Copyright © 2011. State University of New York Press. All rights reserved.
Reading and Misreading
5
simple fact (or theoretical assumption) the reader’s relationship
to the text changes radically. A text, as a network, has no univocal sense; it is a multiplicity without the imposition of a principle
of domination.”8 Instead of considering the relationship between
contemporary Chinese art and the globalization of art production
and consumption as “discursive division between the fi rst and third
world,” I suggest that the use of Chinese visual references—the
logos—in Chinese art in recent decades has dramatically changed
Chinese self-esteem, and ended the heretofore reinforced dominant position of Anglo-American cultural discourse; or at least
undermined it, without intentionally doing so.9
The cultural tension between Chinese artists and the West
began as a challenge-and-response reaction when China confronted
the Europeans in the nineteenth century and suffered defeat in the
Opium War. China’s artists learned that the best solution to the
problem of empowering China in relation to the West was one
that had a long history in China even before it fi rst confronted
the West.10 The problem of empowering China in relationship to
others was older and more serious than its confrontation with Western armed might. Chinese critical discourse is focused primarily on
applying general “formulations derived from the Western mode of
theorizing to the resolution of practical issues in China.”11 Using
the Western model of theorizing social and artistic issues to subvert
the West’s own imperious discourse gained intellectuals great success. One example was the rise of oil painting to a cultural position
as important as that of traditional Chinese painting, if not of greater
importance. However, during this period of learning from the West,
the Chinese notion of the ti/yong dichotomy (ti, 体, the essence of
a thing; yong, 用, its application)—which held that the two were
aspects of a single phenomenon, just as Aristotle had held that substance and appearance were indivisible—in fact became separated.
Chinese learning (that is, Confucian learning) could remain the ti,
while Western learning would be the yong or application.
In the nearly thirty years since 1976, when the Cultural Revolution ended, art in China has gone through several stages in its
pursuit of modernity and postmodernity. This period saw movement from subversion of socialist cultural and political control in
the late 1970s, to participation in the New Wave and “cultural
fever” movements in the 1980s, to the politically cynical and politically charged popular art and fi nal joining of the international art
activities of the late 1990s and end of the century. In the 1990s,
Xu Bing and Contemporary Chinese Art : Cultural and Philosophical Reflections, edited by Hsingyuan Tsao, and Roger T. Ames, State
University of New York Press, 2011. ProQuest Ebook Central, http://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/newschool/detail.action?docID=3407104.
Created from newschool on 2019-09-27 07:53:18.
6
h s i ng y ua n t s ao
the cultural relationship between China and the West gradually
changed from one of a Chinese mimicking of Western visual language to one of constructing a cultural hybrid that can fi nally play
a major role in the international art world. Just as economic success
in recent decades has allowed China to proclaim a Chinese-style
road to modernization, so too was successful art recognized as a
means of building an image of China as a modern country. The art
produced inside China is a hybrid that combines contemporary art
approaches only at the level of presentation, and not at the level of
problematizing social or cultural issues.
Copyright © 2011. State University of New York Press. All rights reserved.
t h e s t a r s g rou p (1979)
I characterize the Stars Group’s mission as the subversion of socialism through the use of a localized Western vocabulary, rather than a
mere mimicking of Western artistic language. Many Chinese critics
and viewers have criticized the Stars Group as lacking in originality
and only closely imitating early Western modernism.12 Even worse,
few realized that for these artists, the mimicking of early twentiethcentury Western modern art styles, borrowed from Western liberalism but packaged as art, was a powerful weapon to critique and
even subvert the socialist cultural policies of the late 1970s.13 It is
no secret that the Stars Group wrapped their political discontent in
the cloak of Western modern art, but should they be associated with
the society where they lived or the society they imitated?14 The Stars
Group was not a cultural negotiation between two cultures, but
one that used Western modernism—the early modern art style—to
oppose Socialist Realism, the officially sanctioned Chinese art of
the time. When we situate our investigation within the context of
the latter seventies, we realize that the Stars’s pursuit of freedom
was a response to the government’s new policy. In 1977, just after
Mao’s death, the fall of the Gang of Four, and the return of Deng
Xiaoping to power, China’s newspapers began to proclaim the
need for democracy. The People’s Daily, reborn with a completely
new voice, declared that if China’s socialist bureaucracy remained
unchecked by elections and other democratic institutions, it might
again run amok and degenerate into “feudal fascism.” That June,
unbelievably, the government instigated a campaign that asserted
that China’s socialist state would no longer function for China if
it were no more than merely “copying straight from Marx, Lenin,
and Chairman Mao.”15
Xu Bing and Contemporary Chinese Art : Cultural and Philosophical Reflections, edited by Hsingyuan Tsao, and Roger T. Ames, State
University of New York Press, 2011. ProQuest Ebook Central, http://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/newschool/detail.action?docID=3407104.
Created from newschool on 2019-09-27 07:53:18.
Copyright © 2011. State University of New York Press. All rights reserved.
Reading and Misreading
7
By February 1978, a new constitution had been adopted; Article 45 guaranteed “freedom of speech, correspondence, the press,
demonstrations, and the freedom to strike.”16 In response to the
government’s call to reform China, people began to take advantage
of this relaxation of political controls and in concert with the late
1970s democracy movement, such as the famous Democracy Wall
at Xidan, a group of artists made their historic move. On October 1, 1979, a chilly and gloomy day, a group of young people in
Beijing went into the streets with banners in their hands and signs
on their shoulders to demonstrate for freedom of art. For the fi rst
time, the culturally and politically oppressed people wanted their
voice to be part of the cultural discourse of late twentieth-century
China.17 Articulating their demands in an art style that imitated the
early modern art of the West, but in a substantially localized version, these artists criticized “crawling behind Abstract Art; it is simply raping the art.” This was a period when most Chinese equated
abstract art with the avant-garde, and believed abstract art to be
radical and virtually undecipherable. Meanwhile, the majority of
those who viewed the Stars’s exhibition supported the use of early
modern art as a way to launch the attack on the socialist control of
cultural production.18
The sparks set off by this group of artists blazed throughout
China; their unyielding cultural confrontation with the “oppressors” inspired and changed the cultural landscape of the country. At the same time, their use of the vocabulary of modern art
and their use of such slogans as “Seeking Freedom of Expression”
touched the hearts of some Westerners, and these people helped
the artists’ message to reach the West.19 The late 1970s pursuit of
freedom prepared thousands of Chinese artists to embrace different
cultural discourses—in particular, that of the West—as a means of
gradually subverting the socialist system. This movement occurred
at a time when China had just escaped the turmoil of the Cultural
Revolution: a time when the West did not expect to see the advent
of avant-garde art in China; and a time when neither Chinese
audiences nor artists were confident about just how far to test the
government’s tolerance. As a result, artists’ use of Western visual
language triggered …
Purchase answer to see full
attachment