Manufactured Apparitions: Materiality and Postsocialist Memory in Contemporary Chinese Visual Art
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Through representation of material objects, artistic integration of commodities, and engagement with materiality through medium, the six contemporary Chinese visual artists analyzed in this project convey an unsettled liminality between socialist and global capitalist value regimes. Unlike their predecessors who operated within the field of socialist vision, the six artists examined in this project are no longer officially tethered to a national audience or Maoist iconography. Nonetheless, the historical and political valences once associated with Chinese socialist visual art remain a spectral force in the perceptual layers that comprise contemporary Chinese society. Functioning as sites of postsocialist memory, the installations discussed reframe societal issues of labor, class, geography, and gender with an attention to historicity and affective resonance. They explore how China’s economic and political transition over the past thirty years has displaced revolutionary imaginaries, while also placing the radically egalitarian politics of the past as future possibility once again. In their experiments in materiality, the artists at the center of this study make visible the contradictions and obfuscations at play in the relays between contemporary Chinese visual culture and the global capitalist art market.
- East Asian studies