Yishu - Journal of Contemporary Chinese Art

Yishu Editor-in-Chief Keith Wallace to Take Part in the International Symposium at the University of Lisbon, March 16-19, 2015

Thursday, March 12th, 2015

International Symposium:

(In)Direct Speech. ‘Chineseness’ in Contemporary Art Discourse and Practice. Art Market, Curatorial Practices and Creative Processes and Launch of the International Research Network for Modern and Contemporary Chinese Art

Date: March 16 – 19, 2015

Venue: Artistic Studies Research Centre / Faculty of Fine Arts – University of Lisbon

Organizers: Franziska Koch (Global Art History, Heidelberg University) and Rui Oliveira Lopes (CIEBA/FBAUL)

Informed by post-colonial and post-1989 perspectives as well as critical area studies and post-modern cultural theories of art and visual culture, scholars no longer look at Chinese art as a visual expression of “Chineseness,” conceived as a long-standing, homogeneous geographic and cultural entity. Instead, they consider the ways in which cultural identity is constructed and the role of particular actors, who continuously claim, contest and propagate its boundaries. Such an analytical stance has emerged as a response to recent positions on Chinese culture that are either charged with (neo-) nationalist assumptions fuelled by the PRC’s role as a rising global power or a result of long-standing Western strategies to essentialise the Chinese “other.” In the name of a “global art history” that is conscious of its epistemological limits, these scholars suggest a critical engagement with modernist, often Eurocentric assumptions that narrowly interpret works of (contemporary) art in terms of “place,” and call for a more nuanced methodological framework that questions the taxonomies and values that have been built into the discipline since its historical beginnings and have been taken as universal. Such a transcultural perspective seems particularly relevant given the increased migration and mobility of Chinese artists since Deng Xiaoping’s Open Door policy and the growing interconnectedness of the art worlds (in-)formed by economic and technological globalization. In particular, such an approach takes into account the continuity of a long-term historical, cross-cultural dialogue, which is often overlooked when speaking about “Chineseness,” but lies at the core of many processes of cultural and artistic naming. This includes, for example, the examination of non-Chinese artists, who have actively responded to what they perceived as specifically “Chinese,” thereby supporting the notion in turn, while themselves working within (very) different institutional, economic, and political power relations than their Chinese colleagues.

The international symposium “(In)Direct Speech. ‘Chineseness’ in Contemporary Art Discourse and Practice. Art Market, Curatorial Practices and Creative Processes” seeks to critically address constructions of “Chineseness” that are apparent in three often entangled spaces of the art world across the globe: in the art market’s institutions, in exhibition halls, and in the artist’s studio. Art historians, curators, and artists are invited to discuss the “voice(s)” of “Chinese” contemporary art in a global context and examine what kind of “China-images” they project. The participants will engage with cases of “indirect speech,” in which Chinese as well as non-Chinese artists, cite “China” as a motif or address it by explicitly using (pre-modern) techniques associated with Chinese culture, such as ink and rice paper or Chinese characters. They will also address cases of “direct speech” by artists, curators and art dealers, who proclaim cultural and artistic uniqueness, critical attitudes towards the “Westernization” of aesthetic standards, or – on the contrary ‒ try to forge a place for their works in the global art discourse by avoiding cultural distinctions. The symposium thus aims to make visible the historicity of “Chineseness” as discursive and practical construct and to analyse how agents and institutions contribute to its changes during the last three decades.

The symposium includes the launch of the “International Research Network for Modern and Contemporary Chinese Art,” which will create a suitable academic social media platform that ensures easy accessibility, global outreach and a secured space for the sharing of professional information as well as in-group discussions. In particular the network will address the career needs of junior scholars with non-permanent institutional affiliations and a lack of funding to support their often expensive research travels, enabling them to quickly and internationally gather helpful information together with the support of senior researchers. It is planned to be institutionally affiliated to a university – probably Heidelberg University – to ensure a sustainable, non-commercial and democratic administration by chosen representatives of its scholarly members.


Eva Aggeklint (Stockholm University), Jane Chin Davidson (California State University, San Bernardino), Nicola Foster (The Open University & University of the Arts London), Paul Gladston (University of Nottingham), José de Guimarães (Artist, Portugal), Katie Hill (Sothebyʼs Institute of Art, London), JIANG Jiehong (School of Art, Birmingham City University), Beccy Kennedy (Manchester Metropolitan University), Marie Laureillard (Université Lumière-Lyon 2, Lyon), Carol Yinghua LU (Independent Curator, Beijing), LI Shiyan (Université Aix-Marseille), LIN Chen-Yu (School of Music, University of Liverpool), susan pui san lok (Artist, Middlesex University, London), Rachel Marsden (Birmingham City University), Elizabeth Parke (University of Toronto), Petra Pölzl (Freie Universität Berlin), Wenny TEO (The Courtauld Institute, London), Keith Wallace (Editor-in-Chief of Yishu), Mi YOU (Academy of Media Arts Cologne), N.N. (Artist)

Read more about the symposium’s focus in the CfP, about the programme, and visit the symposium’s website: http://chineseness.fba.ul.pt/

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