MA in the History of Art

(Re)Made in China: Appropriation, Subversion and Transformation in Chinese Art (1978-2008)

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Course Description

This course examines the critical dimensions of artistic appropriation in recent Chinese art. It focuses on the conflicted processes of cross-cultural and trans-historical interchange that are (re)produced in the articulation of cultural identity and difference.

It is designed to encourage students to develop a highly nuanced knowledge of the transformational logic at play in Chinese artistic practice in the years between China’s ‘open door’ economic reforms of 1978 and the watershed event of the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

The course is structured around a series of comprehensive case studies that unfold chronologically, facilitating an in-depth understanding of the radical socio-political, economic and ideological developments in Mainland China over the thirty-year period it covers.

Students are introduced to key moments in Chinese artistic (re)presentation in which both Western as well as traditional Chinese aesthetic models were adopted and adapted to serve diverse critical, political and even commercial agendas. We also focus on how such art feeds into cultural projections of ‘Chineseness’ in the West and is also fed by them, in what might be considered reciprocal processes of ‘discursive cannibalisms’ that delineate and/or dissolve the fraught boundaries of identity politics in an age of globalisation.

This MA is particularly suited to students who are keen to develop their interest in discourses of power, intertextuality, postmodernism, globalisation, post-colonialism and psychoanalysis.

One of our central aims will be to examine recent Chinese art through these theoretical paradigms, and also to challenge their utility when mapped onto different historio-cultural frameworks. In the process we shall expose to critical scrutiny what Benjamin Buchloh has referred to as ‘the delicate constructs of compromise’ and the ambivalence inherent to acts of artistic appropriation and re-contextualisation.

A further task will be to look at the strategies of subversion, allegory and duplicity which have allowed Chinese artists to negotiate the shifting policies of the Chinese state towards artistic practice on home ground, as well as explore their own subjectivities within or even against the pressures of the international art market both locally and globally.

Language and other requirements

Standard entry requirements. No previous knowledge of Chinese art and language is required.