» Archive for 29 July 2010
In honor of Evan Osnos’s “Pardon Me, Would You Have Any Pabst Blue Ribbon?” post in the New Yorker blog, I dug up this carefully preserved, very old photo of PBR “兰带” bottled water.
Perhaps it is the ideal thirst quencher for those hipsters smoldering in the Beijing heat this week…
The following paper was for a class on contemporary art criticism in China. It discusses the two articles “Globalization” and “Observations on and Predictions for ‘After Postcolonialism’” by Gao Shiming. The conclusion includes some of my own analysis, but the content is generally the same as the previous two “Readings” on Gao. (Going along the Silk Route this summer, but if I get some time when I’m back, I’ll translate.)
英国的左派文化批评者特里·伊格尔顿（Terry Eagleton） 评论著名后殖民理论家佳亚特里·斯皮瓦克 （Gayatri Spivak）的新书《在俗丽的超市里》时，描述了后殖民话语的特征：“在某处，一定存在着给一本后殖民批评家准备的手册，里面的第一条是“以拒绝后殖民主义的整体概念为开始。”
作为大展背后的观念和理论的先行本，三年展的重要文章之一《读本一》，本人将对高士明与许江合编的文章《‘全球概念’与中国当代艺术的境遇——写在卡塞尔文献展艺术策划人访华之际》（2000）进行概述 。此文已在不同杂志发表过多次，并且在网络上广泛传播。 上述文章认为，后殖民主义并不适用于中国，中国的艺术家需要在多文化的平台上展示出自身的创造力。二人的争论围绕了2000年第十一届卡塞尔文献展艺术总监奥奎（Okwui Enwezor）和六位国际知名艺术批评家、策划人杭州的杭州之行进行了讨论。他们第一站是中国美术学院，第一天的讨论会上，他们就问道：“西方意味着什么？”
西方的“全球化”概念与艺术界对身份的认同和对独特性、本土性、差异性的重视不一定是本土艺术界所关心的话题，但是这些因素引起了西方艺术界对“身份”、“他者”以及多文化主义的讨论。 策展小组从来没有提出最相关的问题：后殖民的话语究竟是否适用于中国的文化语境？ (more…)
“Observations on and Predictions for ‘After Postcolonialism’” was a Gao Shiming’s curatorial essay printed in the catalog for the 2008 Third Guangzhou Triennial. It collects and builds upon the rejection of Postcolonial interpretive strategies that was put forth in Xu Jiang and Gao Shiming’s “Globalization,” (see a post on that article here) and provides the framework for Gao’s curatorial strategies in the 3rd Guangzhou Triennial. Almost an decade lies between the first article, and this consequent official “farewell” to Postcolonialism, or what is perceived as Postcolonialism as a factor influencing the production of art. How has a prominent critical discourse in the West, likewise a broad field that might be effectively put to work in China, come to be rejected here? Perhaps more importantly, what comes next?
Key Concepts: Globalization, Postcolonialism, Westernization Key words: “After Postcolonialism,” “two-fold colonization,” “Self-Othering”
Anticipating the flurry of discussion surrounding the provacative exhibition title (“Farewell to Postcolonialism”), Gao rounds up a few key criticisms of his thesis in the introduction to his article: with no former colonization to speak of, why do the Chinese even need to bid farewell to postcolonialism? (From the Chinese side.) He nods to “multiculturalists,” who find the notion politically incorrect, reeking of a return to new forms of colonialism (with the colonizers being the Chinese), or who see the notion of rejecting Postcolonialism as a the rise of new forms of cultural superiority.
But Gao has no interest in debating Postcolonial theory or politics. His purpose here is to express his personal dissatisfaction with the politicization of art and the evident harm that this process (understand to be a by-product of Postcolonial) has done to art.
In his first footnote, Gao expounds on some interesting thoughts about “colonization” in China, stating that she has undergone a “two-fold colonization” (shuangchong zhimin): Westernization and then Anti-Westernization; a technological and then utopian colonization. “Social experiments eliminated “traditional” China, and the experience of the Cultural Revolution left deeper scars on the collective Chinese psychology than colonial memories ever could.” Thus, “Art in the 1980s was unrelated to the so-called Postcolonial experience, the Chinese were rising against the social system and the ‘new traditions’” created in this unique context that had been formulating over the past few decades.
To Gao, Postcolonial is a discourse that is available to everyone, but China’s local discourse is not based in a “Postcolonial reality” and neither does she have a historical experience with colonialism. (He says that China’s 20th century discourse is based in the battle of East-West cultures.) China is familiar with Postcolonialism through experiencing it as a framework, an ideology.
Postcolonialism in the visual arts is a “system for viewing” art (guankan zhidu), and it has its drawbacks: “As a mechanism, it is like a net, only catching that which it is able and willing to catch. Sometimes, it transforms into a productive mechanism, penetrating into the artist’s thoughts.” Later Gao states that his curatorial impetus is to collect the things that fall between the holes in the Postcolonial net, and outside of this “system for viewing.”
Here, in his second footnote, Gao makes some more important points: “China’s 20th Century context is the clash of Eastern and Western cultures. In the beginning of the 20th Century, Chinese intellectuals intermingled various “self-othering” terms into cultural discussions, such as Guocui, and New Confucianism. He asserts that Mao’s “Theory of New Democracy” was extremely similar to Postcolonialism, which he equivocates as the theory of postcolonialism in actual terms as being present in mainstream China much earlier than in the West.
And why should Chinese artists care about Postcolonialism? In a global context––doesn’t matter if you’ve heard of it or not––once an artist participates in any international exhibition, he/she is thrust into this “system for viewing.” To some degree, all artists are caught up in it. (more…)
I’m celebrating this July 4th national day with the “Soldier’s Pocket Guide to China,” published by the US War Department in 1943. (No bbq’s for me, but as American as one can get at S.I.T., I’m enjoying an omelet slathered in ketchup and Tabasco with a cup of joe, black.)
This guide is deftly written, and delightfully full of insight and sympathy for the Chinese, “our gallant ally.” It comes replete with analects of Confucius––characters included––tips on shopping, girls, racial superiority complexes and more, and how much of it still rings true! (Aside from some predictable cartoonish characterizations of Chinese.)
For all of my American friends in China, remember, “Forget your old notions,” you’re on Chinese turf now, and “You are our Ambassador.” Happy Fourth of July!
“The Chinese are like Americans,” they laugh at the same jokes, and the “Chinese have their great men who were born in cabins” (Chiang Kai-shek).
And tips aplenty, on visiting traditional families: “the quieter you are, the better.”
How to eat in a restaurant: “If you want a good meal in a Chinese restaurant, take your buddies with you.”
Shopping: “If you pay what is asked, the shopkeeper will not respect you for it. If you argue him down too much, he will prefer not to sell it to you at all… But above all, keep good humored throughout. In China it is a sign of bad breeding to grow heated over a purchase.”
Learn about the “squeeze” [this isn’t the same “squeeze” as trying to exit the subway, but commission], and the use of “servants… who are smoothers of your way.” And discover that “Chinese have ways of getting information which has nothing to do with newspapers or organized sources of information.”
“Important things to remember: …By following these suggestions, you will not only avoid difficulties, but you will guarantee your own popularity.”
“…China is the oldest nation in the world and its civilization is in many ways the greatest. As a natural result, the Chinese will not bear any assumption of superiority on the part of a white man because he is white.”
“…Discourage anyone who acts as though the Chinese people are queer. They are not queer.”
“…Try not to lose your temper. You will see plenty of Chinese lose theirs, but they are looked upon as lower class when they do so.”
“…Bear in mind that many refined and well educated Chinese––professors, students, government employees––are today poor and underpaid. … Do not be too quick, therefore, in judging by appearances.”
Images of the introduction below. (more…)
Gao Shiming and Xu Jiang’s “‘Globalization’ and Chinese Contemporary Art –– written on the occasion of the Kassel Documenta curators’ visit to China”
读许江与高士明的《“全 球概念”与中国当代艺术的境遇——写在卡塞尔文献展艺术策划人访华之际》 的一些感受
The following are some thoughts and some translations while reading Xu Jiang and Gao Shiming’s essay, “‘Globalization’ and Chinese Contemporary Art” (The Chinese title translates more literally as “the notion of Globalization” and the circumstances of Chinese contemporary art.”) I hope to outline the framework of their argument. This text was first published in 2000, and reprinted in the 2008 Third Guangzhou Triennial “Farewell to Post-Colonialism” reader No. 1 (读本一), a Chinese version can be found on the exhibition’s homepage. This text has been circulated widely on the Internet, and the question is, is this a work of “criticism,” or a manifesto of sorts?
Authors Gao Shiming was a curator of the Third Guangzhou Triennial: Farewell to Post-Colonialism” (2008) and is currently on the curatorial team of the 2010 Shanghai Biennial, “Rehearsal.” Xu Jiang is the Dean of the China National Academy of Fine Arts, and one very lively orator.
关键观念：全球化、后殖民主义、 身份、文化多元化、文化他者、“中国性”、“西化”关键词：非西方的西方化，反思着的现代性，沉默的声 音
Key Concepts: Globalization, modernization, Westernization, Post-Colonialism, Multicultural, Identity, Cultural Other, Chineseness.
Key Words: non-Western Westernization, introspective modernity, silent voices
For the sake of brevity, Postcolonalism has been abbreviated to Po Co. The general idea is that Po Co is not applicable in China, and Chinese artists need to creatively assert themselves on a multicultural stage.
“Globalization has caused the West to introspectively reflect on its modernity, especially the various universalisms that this includes.”
“But, amidst the multiculturalism promoted by ‘globalization,’ the strategic misinterpretation and use of Po Co cultural theory to interpret and Chinese contemporary culture and art still exists.”
“Chinese art is facing fortunate opportunities for development like never before, and is likewise experiencing cultural circumstances both of unprecedented complexity and full of paradoxes. In view of the present world’s cultural pluralism, Chinese artists must devote themselves to establishing a new Chinese art rich in imagination and creativity, and not the characteristic monotony of a cultural other.”
So Po Co theory is not applicable in China ( a sentiment that I’ve heard echoed from some students at CAFA, who have said, “why should we apply foreign theories to what’s happening in China?”), and likewise Chinese artists need to make new art that defines them on a multicultural stage.
My reading of this statement sees art creation endowed with a mission to promote a “new Chinese art,” one free from the Western gaze, or free from the “West” as a determinant factor in establishing cultural value. This argument is not new, but here is placed within a framework of Po Co theory and globalization. One valid question that arises is whether or not the same terminology in translation is being interpreted or understood in the same ways across contexts. Po Co as an interpretive model has been looked upon with suspicion in Chinese academia, I believe that it falls outside what ever may be called the mainstream of critical literature, film, and cultural studies in China.
Their argument centers around Okwui Enwezor and the arrival of the Documenta 11 curatorial team in China, a now China-art-world-legendary encounter. Their first stop was the Hangzhou China Academy of Art, where they met with authors Xu Jiang and Gao Shiming, among others. Their question to them was: “What is the West?” The authors are shocked and seem insulted that upon arriving in China, their first question is West-centric (and we assume he should have asked what is ‘China’?) (more…)