Weekend Reads #6

More Weekend Reads (read parts one to five here)…a round-up of articles and words that I’ve come across in relation to governmental, societal and cultural aspects of China and Chinese contemporary visual culture. More events and conferences again thrown in…including one I’m speaking at next weekend called UK China Arts. Join me if you can for the afternoon!

Events and Conferences

UK China Arts – Room NAB326 Goldsmiths University of London, Saturday 27 September, 2pm – 5pm – BOOK HERE (PAY EVENT) – I’ll be speaking at this event…
This is the second China UK Arts meeting that will take place in London, hosted by Natasha Phillips and Kunjue Li in collaboration with the Goldsmiths Confucius Institute for Dance and Performance. This will be a 3-hour event in which artists from different disciplines, academics, and art producers and representatives of institutions will come together and look at artistic exchanges between the two countries, understand and communicate industry practices and formal practicalities, and exchange intercultural creative ideas and working methodologies through the sharing of resources. 

UK China Arts

Dislocating Asia – The Forge. 2 October 2014, 7pm – BOOK HERE (PAY EVENT)
An evening of talks, performance, comedy, poetry and music inspired or shaped by migrations from East Asia. Diana Yeh presents her new book The Happy Hsiungs: Performing China and the Struggle for Modernity about Shih-I Hsiung, acclaimed as the first Chinese director to work in the West End and on Broadway. Actors Daniel York and Jennifer Lim read excerpts from Lady Precious Stream, the play that shot him to worldwide fame. Orwell Prize shortlisted blogger Anna Chen reads from her ‘brilliant and dangerous’ poetry collection, Reaching for my Gnu (Aaaargh! Press), and tries out some new poems. Music is provided by semi-acoustic Hapa trio Wondermare, followed by British Chinese musician/composer Liz Chi Yen Liew, who performs music from her latest album Snapshots, with Dennis Lee on the xiao (flute) and guzheng (zither), taking listeners on an evocative musical journey from China to London. The evening ends with DJ Lucky Cat Zoë playing a mixture of Chinese golden oldies from her vinyl collection blended with the freshest urban sounds from Shanghai and Beijing.

Harmonious Society 天下無事 Conference – The University of Salford at MediaCityUK, Monday 29 September 2014, 9.30am – 6.00pm – BOOK HERE (PAY EVENT)
The conference brings together leading international curators and academics with exhibiting artists from China, Taiwan and Hong Kong, to review and examine the significance of Chinese contemporary art in the West. The conference provides a unique opportunity to discuss practice-led curatorial research, which critically examines Chinese contemporary art, and the strategies for its curation, from cultural and socio-political perspectives. Simultaneously the conference offers a rare and detailed insight into the artistic practice and ecology of artists’ development of those participating in the Harmonious Society programme. Keynote speakers are Xinghua Lu and Wu Dar-Kuen other speakers include Yu-Ling Chou, Mei Huang, Jiehong Jiang, Ying Kwok as well as Harmonious Society artists Chen Chien-Jen (Taiwan), Leung Chi-Wo (Hong Kong), Pak Sheung-Chuen (Hong Kong), Zhenzhong Yang (Shanghai), Jui-Chung Yao (Taipei) and Peili Zhang (Shanghai).

 Also read my write up here of the Harmonious Society 天下無事  workshop that recently took place at King’s College London…



Jailed for Speaking his Mind in China – BBC, 26 September 2014
In 1957 the Chinese Communist leader Chairman Mao made a speech encouraging criticism of the Communist system, saying ‘Let a hundred flowers bloom, let a hundred schools of thought contend’. But when one student, Harry Wu, made his views known, he ended up in prison for nearly twenty years.



From eyelids to skin tone, beauty isn’t always about ‘looking white’ – The Guardian, 19 August 2014
Deracialisation cosmetic surgery troubles our ideas about the ‘natural’ unaltered body. It also points to a eurocentrism that sees the desire to look white everywhere.

Why haven’t China’s cities learned from America’s mistakes? – The Guardian, 20 August 2014
Faceless estates. Sprawling suburbs. Soulless financial districts. Discredited elsewhere as fostering the worst kind of urban angst, these are the vogue in China – but change could be afoot.

Have You Ever Wondered Why East Asians Spontaneously Make V-Signs in Photos? – Time, 4 August 2014
Spend a few minutes browsing social media, or watch groups of travelers posing in front of a popular tourist attraction, and you’re bound to come across it: attractive young Asians flashing smiles and making the V-for-Victory sign (or peace sign). The raised index and middle fingers, with palm facing outward, are as much a part of Asian portraiture as saying cheese is to English speakers. But why?

TEN PROBLEMS FACING CHINESE SOCIETY – The World of Chinese, 17 September 2014
Like every country in the world, China has its fair share of problems. And now citizens have set down their greatest fears in a survey outlining the main problems facing Chinese society, as conducted by the  People’s Tribune–a magazine  founded by the state-run People’s Daily. People’s key concern was a lack of morals, with 55.3 of respondents flagging this as a worry. The survey referred to the example of a qi gong master who was able to dupe government officials as they had nothing else to believe in and were essentially living in a moral vacuum.

A New Definition of Chinese Patriotism – Tea Leaf Nation, 11 September 2014
China’s ruling Communist Party has a message for Chinese citizens: You are for us, or you are against us. That’s the takeaway from a widely discussed Sept. 10 opinion piece in pro-party tabloid Global Times, in which Chen Xiankui, a professor at the School of Marxism at Beijing’s Renmin University of China, proclaims that “love of party and love of country are one and the same in modern China.” Chen’s article has caused an uproar on Chinese social media, with many netizens scoffing at his formulation of patriotism.

China’s Social Media Underground – Tea Leaf Nation, 16 September 2014
The date was June 4, 2014. In Hong Kong, tens of thousands of residents would soon be converging to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the crackdown on anti-government protests in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square that may have killed hundreds of student protestors. This would be the only public memorial in China, where the ruling Communist Party has worked tirelessly for the past 25 years to wipe the event from the historical record.



Art Basel Lends a Hand to Arts Crowdfunding Efforts – The New York Times, 12 September 2014
One of the world’s most prominent art fairs is hoping to garner support for nonprofit art organizations by lending them some street cred. Art Basel, which stages modern and contemporary art fairs in Basel, Hong Kong and Miami Beach, announced on Friday that it will work with the crowdfunding website Kickstarter to garner support for projects by nonprofit art groups.

A tale of two new fairs in China – The Art Newspaper, 17 September 2014
The visitors at Photo Shanghai were just as happy to take photos as they were to view them. Caucasian babies often attract attention in China, but they rarely set off photographic near-riots as on the final day of Photo Shanghai, a new art fair that opened earlier this month. Many of the thousands of photography fans who jostled into the Shanghai Exhibition Centre every day touting huge digital cameras and gear packs came less to see photographs than to take them. Pretty girls, artsy outfits, even cracks in the floor and queues for the toilets attracted keen amateur paparazzi. One foreign father and young child were mobbed by photo enthusiasts for over an hour, posing gamely for the snapping throngs.

China’s Beijing Independent Film Festival shut down – BBC, 23 August 2014
The authorities in China have shut down the 11th Beijing Independent Film Festival on its opening day. Organisers said they had been under pressure from officials in recent days to cancel the festival, which had been due to run until the end of the month.

Small talk with Thomas Charveriat – Timeout Shanghai, 9 September 2014
Indie art space director of island6 Thomas Charveriat is a renowned artist and curator. He speaks to Time Out about the city’s art scene.

Saving the Clangs, Songs, and Shouts of Old Beijing – The Atlantic, 18 September 2014
Hutongs are disappearing but their sounds won’t, thanks to Colin Chinnery’s Beijing Sound History Project. During Mao Zedong’s Great Leap Forward in 1958, Chinese citizens were encouraged to bang on pots and pans to drive the country’s sparrows to death. Mao’s thinking was that the tiny birds, along with rats, flies, and mosquitoes, were pests that ate grain seeds, which the people needed for food. The sound of banging drove the birds from their nests to fly around until they dropped dead of exhaustion.


Chinese Art Market Rebounds to $8.5 Billion in 2013 – artnet, 17 September 2014
artnet and the China Association of Auctioneers (CAA) have just published the second edition of their Global Chinese Art Auction Market Report, taking an in-depth look at the Chinese Art and Antiques market in 2013. This year’s report includes an introduction written by renowned art economist Dr. Clare McAndrew, as well as interviews with other well-known industry experts on such topics as online auctions, art financing, and art collecting. You can read Dr. McAndrew’s overview below, and download the entire report for free at www.artnet.com/caa.

China Gets A Big Dose Of Fine Art Photography – npr, 7 September 2014
China’s largest fair devoted to fine art photography opened in Shanghai this weekend. The first-time event is called Photo Shanghai and includes more than 500 works from photographers around the world.

This Is What Asia’s Longest River Looks Like – Slate, 24 August 2014
At nearly 4,000 miles from mouth to source, China’s Yangtze River is the longest river in Asia and the third longest in the world. Its banks are home to about 400 million people, or around one-third of the country’s population—more than the entire population of the United States. For thousands of years, the Yangtze has played an essential role in China’s culture, economy, and politics, and since 1950, the river and its basin “have been the focus of much of China’s economic modernization.”

Chongqing IV (Sunday Picnic), Chongqing Municipality.

RSC to translate Shakespeare for Chinese audiences – The Guardian, 12 September 2014
The Royal Shakespeare Company is to translate the entire works of the Bard into Mandarin as part of efforts to foster greater cultural ties with China.

‘I Am China’ Asks: How Far Should An Artist Go? – China Digital Times, 10 September 2014
In an authoritarian state, is all art necessarily political? And if so, what is the artist’s responsibility? How far should he or she push? How does an individual operate in a society that values collectivism above all? And is this intersection of art and politics worth the turmoil, chaos, and pain that it causes to those you love? These are the questions at the heart of Xiaolu Guo’s new novel, I Am China.

The Soviet city is dead: long live Beijing – The Guardian, 5 September 2014
Architecture theorist Jacob Dreyer explains how the Stalinist model of urbanism – a centrally planned component within a national economic unity – is thriving in modern China.

Collecting Insanity – ChinaFile, 19 September 2014
Every country has a past it likes to celebrate and another it would rather forget. In China, where history still falls under the tight control of government-run museums and officially approved textbooks, the omissions appear especially stark. An unusual museum dedicated largely to what is absent in China’s self-presentation is the subject of Joshua Frank’s short film “Collecting Insanity.” Frank tours the Jianchuan Museum Cluster, of Fan Jianchuan, an ex-official and real estate magnate, in the town of Anren, near Chengdu. The group of exhibits, named after Fan himself, display their owner’s collection of millions of historical artifacts, gathered over a lifetime of obsessive accumulation. Fan’s museum displays objects from various historical events, including the officially memorialized Sino-Japanese War and the far more taboo fallout of the 2008 Sichuan earthquake.

Designs for Beijing mega-museum unveiled – The Art Newspaper, 20 September 2014
The French architect Jean Nouvel has announced details of his design for the National Art Museum of China in Beijing. The new 130,000 sq. m institution, the centrepiece of a vast museum park on the former Beijing Olympics site, will house works dating from the Ming era (1368-1644) to today.

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