BFA performance art protest

Source: China Digital Times (12/1/21)
Translation: Blanket Censorship of Performance Art Piece Protesting Beijing Film Academy Campus Lockdown
Posted by Anne Henochowicz

A male student, wearing a face mask as a blindfold, lounges in a small cage as part of a performance art piece.

A performance art piece by a student who sat in a cage to protest a draconian lockdown of the Beijing Film Academy (BFA) recently went viral, and was censored just as quickly. Like many other Chinese citizens, university students have been living under strict lockdowns, and are beginning to chafe at the restrictions—and at administrators’ lack of responsiveness to students’ concerns. With the appearance of the omicron variant and fears of new COVID-19 outbreaks if protocols are relaxed, even more Chinese schools and universities are instituting lockdowns.

The following is a full translation of the CDT Chinese article “Blanket Censorship of Performance Art Piece Protesting Beijing Film Academy Campus Lockdown”:

On November 22, a performance art piece by a Beijing Film Academy student began making the rounds on Weibo: the student sits in a cage, wearing a face mask over his eyes like a blindfold. A sign atop the cage reads, “Don’t leave the cage unless strictly necessary” (非必要不出笼); an online commentary on the performance notes that the sign is a riff on the school’s unwritten COVID-19 policy, “Don’t leave campus unless strictly necessary” (非必要不出校), interpreting the performance as a critique of Beijing Film Academy’s brute, indefinite lockdown of its campus. Continue reading

Indigenous artist to represent Taiwan at Venice Biennale

Source: Focus Taiwan (11/19/21)
Indigenous artist to represent Taiwan at 2022 Venice Biennale
By Ken Wang

Artist Sakuliu (right) and the exhibition

Artist Sakuliu (right) and the exhibition’s curator Patrick Flores. Photo courtesy of Taipei Fine Arts Museum

Taipei, Nov. 19 (CNA) A veteran Indigenous artist will represent Taiwan at the 59th Venice Biennale in 2022, the Taipei Fine Arts Museum, which is organizing the Taiwan Pavilion at the event, said on Friday.

Sakuliu, an artist from Taiwan’s Paiwan people, will create a spiritual site at the Taiwan Pavilion and fill it with new works including sculptures, installation, and animation inspired by the Paiwan mythology and culture, the museum said.

The exhibition, titled “Kinerapan: Right of Crawling,” will tell a contemporary story through the traditional Paiwan narrative.

“Kinerapan” is a Paiwan word, which carries a wide range of meanings from the “crawling” of a plant to “scope, distance and depth,” such as the area covered by a vast forest, the distance traveled by a river, or the space inhabited by a species. The word also implies the farthest distance one’s imagination can reach, according to the museum. Continue reading

Badiucao show goes on

Source: NYT (11/12/21)
The Show Goes On, Even After China Tried to Shut It Down
An Italian city rejected a request from the Chinese Embassy in Rome to cancel an exhibition by Badiucao, an artist who has been described as the Chinese Banksy.
By Elisabetta Povoledo

Badiucao in front of one of his works, “Carrie Lam,” a portrait of Hong Kong’s chief executive, at Santa Giulia Museum in Brescia, Italy. Credit…Alessandro Grassani for The New York Times

BRESCIA, Italy — With a week to go before his first solo exhibition, the Chinese-Australian artist Badiucao was in head-down work mode: installing the show during the day, and sharpening hundreds of pencils with a knife at night.

Set closely together, the pencils — 3,724 in all — were part of an installation in the show “China Is (Not) Near,” which opens Saturday in the municipal museum of Brescia, an industrial city in the northern Italian region of Lombardy.

After a decade building an online following as a political cartoonist by lambasting China, whether for its censorship (and Western complicity in it), its treatment of the Uyghur minority, or the crackdown in Hong Kong, Badiucao said he was keen to show work in a traditional institutional setting.

He wasn’t always so forthcoming. Until not so long ago, Badiucao had been so concerned about reprisals from the Chinese government that he had kept his identity a secret, eliciting comparisons to the British street artist Banksy. He revealed his face in a 2019 documentary, and now says that he’s found safety in exposure, though he still prefers to use his artist name. Continue reading

M+ Museum opens and is already in danger

Source: NYT (11/12/21)
Hong Kong’s M+ Museum Is Finally Open. It’s Already in Danger
The museum, billed as Asia’s premier art institution, faced construction delays and personnel problems. Now it faces its greatest challenge: the threat of censorship.
By Vivian Wang

As the M+ Museum in Hong Kong opened on Friday, its greatest challenge was just materializing: the threat of censorship from the Chinese Communist Party. Credit…Tyrone Siu/Reuters

HONG KONG — M+, Hong Kong’s sprawling new contemporary art museum, ran into problems from the start. Billed as Asia’s premier visual institution, it was four years behind schedule and an undisclosed amount over budget. Several top executives departed during the decade-long development period. At one point, an 80-foot-wide sinkhole formed on the construction site.

As the museum opened on Friday, its greatest challenge was just materializing: the threat of censorship from the Chinese Communist Party.

M+ envisioned itself as a world-class institution that could make its home city a cultural heavyweight, but those ambitions are now directly clashing with a new national security law imposed by Beijing to crush dissent.

Even before the opening, pro-Beijing figures criticized pieces in the M+ collection as an insult to China and called for them to be banned. Officials have promised to scrutinize every exhibition for illegal content. Continue reading

A Conversation with Cui Weiping and Wen Pulin

Dear all,

A reminder that our online event to celebrate the second issue of the Chinese Independent Cinema Observer “Chinese Avant-Garde Art of the 1980s: A Conversation with Cui Weiping and Wen Pulin”, is taking place this Saturday, 6 November, 13:30 UK time. 

If you wish to attend, remember to register in advance in order to receive the Zoom link via email:

Luke Robinson

Mystery surrounds closure of two Shanghai museums

Source: The Art News (10/5/21)
Mystery surrounds sudden closures of two major Shanghai museums
Long Museum West Bund and Shanghai Minsheng Art Museum both announced they would shut indefinitely for unspecified reasons
By Lisa Movius

Installation view of George Condo: The Picture Gallery, at Long Museum (West Bund), Shanghai, 2021. © George Condo. Courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth. Photo: JJYPHOTO

Installation view of George Condo: The Picture Gallery, at Long Museum (West Bund), Shanghai, 2021.© George Condo. Courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth. Photo: JJYPHOTO

Two Shanghai museums have announced closures for vague or unspecified reasons in the past week, eliciting speculation in the Shanghai art world as to the actual causes. First Long Museum West Bund announced on 28 September that it would close indefinitely for reasons only listed as “facility maintenance”, before updating the following day with a notice of reopening from 30 September. Then the Shanghai Minsheng Art Museum posted on its official Wechat channel a similar notice announcing its indefinite closure from 1 October, with no reason cited. The museum has not yet provided a reopening date.

Abrupt, unexplained museum closures in China are usually due to political controversies, surprise visits by high-ranking officials, facility safety concerns, or extreme weather conditions. Long’s closure has come on the heels of unveiling a massive George Condo solo exhibition on 25 September. A museum spokesperson declined to specify any reasons for the closure, but confirmed that the 30 September opening of a solo presentation by the Brazilian artist Beatriz Milhazes on the museum’s second floor proceeded as planned for invited guests. Minsheng did not respond to a request for comment. Continue reading

Looking close at the fragile beauty of Chinese painting

Source: NYT (10/7/21)
Looking Close at the Fragile Beauty of Chinese Painting
Some 60 celebrated landscapes are part of a rehang at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Don’t pass them by: They are demanding to the eye and mind alike.
By Holland Cotter

Detail of Wu Li’s “Whiling Away the Summer,” 1679, ink on paper. Credit…Metropolitan Museum of Art

It always feels like early autumn in the Chinese painting galleries of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The lighting is warm but low; the décor, wheat-beige and nut-brown. Despite sparks of color, the ink-and-brush paintings are visually subdued; their images can be hard to read from even a short distance away.

And although the galleries hold the museum’s permanent collection of Chinese paintings, no picture stays for long. Compared with Western-style oil painting — a hardy, meat-and-potatoes, survivalist medium — Classical Chinese painting is fragile. Often done in ink on silk, it has two natural enemies: time and light. The danger is less that they will fade the ink than that they will darken the silk. Paintings depicting daylight scenes can end up looking twilight-dim.

Most of the 60 paintings in the museum’s current reinstallation, “Companions in Solitude: Reclusion and Communion in Chinese Art,” were never meant to have prolonged exposure. Some were conceived as album pages and kept between closed covers. Many in the form of scrolls were stored rolled up and brought out for occasional one-on-one viewing or as conversation starters at parties. (For reasons of conservation, the paintings on view now, which range from the 11th to the 21st century, will stay out until early January, and then be replaced by others.) Continue reading

Graffiti confessions

Source: NeoCha (8/12/21)
Graffiti Confessions

“I’m innocent for loving country, but I am guilty of loving you.”

In today’s world, we’ve learned to close ourselves off. We’re always guarded, terrified of wearing our hearts on our sleeves. We’ve come to terms with the fact that there’s simply no place for emotional vulnerability in modern society. But unspoken thoughts can only remain muted for so long. Across China, candid confessions are appearing on the least likely of places—atop half-toppled walls and dilapidated structures. These off-the-cuff missives, though hardly pleasing in any aesthetic sense, are endearingly candor. They’re mysterious, leaving passersby who stumble across them intrigued about the life and fate of the vandal.

These spraypainted musings are the focus of Chinese Graffiti Hub, an Instagram and Weibo account that aggregates photos of amateur graffiti from across the Middle Kingdom. Chinese Graffiti Hub is operated by Yaya, who says he prefers his real name withheld. While studying art history overseas, he discovered the works of Li Xiangwei and Murong Yaming, both of whom frequently photographed Chinese graffiti along with other absurd observations. Upon coming across their photography, Yaya quickly became fascinated by Chinese graffiti. He believes the written word holds a certain power, but at the same time, graffiti as a medium is undeniably ephemeral. What others saw as acts of vandalism, he saw as art that deserved preservation. Continue reading

Artist Hung Liu dead at 73

Source: NYT (8/22/21)
Hung Liu, Artist Who Blended East and West, Is Dead at 73
An immigrant from China, she once said her goal was “to invent a way of allowing myself to practice as a Chinese artist outside of a Chinese culture.”
By Holland Cotter

The artist Hung Liu in her studio in front of her 2020 work “Rat Year 2020.” Her work incorporated photo-based images that combined the political and the personal. Credit…John Janca

Hung Liu, a Chinese American artist whose work merged past and present, East and West, earning her acclaim in her adopted country and censorship in the land of her birth, died on Aug. 7 at her home in Oakland, Calif. She was 73.

The cause was pancreatic cancer, Nancy Hoffman Gallery, which represents Ms. Liu in New York, said in a statement.

Her death came less than three weeks before the scheduled opening of a career survey, “Hung Liu: Portraits of Promised Lands,” at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington. She was the first Asian American woman to have a solo exhibition there.

“Five-thousand-year-old culture on my back; late-twentieth-century world in my face” is how Ms. Liu described her life-changing arrival in the United States from China in 1984, when she was 36 and already an accomplished painter. Her goal in America, she once said, was “to invent a way of allowing myself to practice as a Chinese artist outside of a Chinese culture.” Continue reading

Manhua as Magazine

Source: Association for Chinese Animation Studies no. 10 (Aug. 19, 2021)
Manhua as Magazine: The Case of Shanghai Sketch
By John A. Crespi

Figure 1: The front cover of Shanghai Sketch no. 10

What exactly are manhua, otherwise known as Chinese “cartoons”? The word manhua is easy to trace. It is a cognate of the Japanese word manga, though the two-character compound was used on occasion in China from the Song dynasty, in reference to a bird rather than pictures. The art of manhua, however, is harder to pin down. One can, as some researchers have done, devise narratives of satirical, cartoonish pictures that stretch back through millennia of Chinese history, albeit with many missing links. Easier to pin down is a specific year, 1925, when the term manhua was applied to Feng Zikai’s neo-traditionalist ink paintings printed in the new literature journal Literature Weekly. But manhua clearly did not emerge at a single point in time. Rather, they developed out of the diverse imagery found in China’s, and primarily Shanghai’s, illustrated press, from lithographed Dianshizhai Pictorial  in the 1880s on through myriad popular illustrated journals, magazines, and tabloids produced during the first several decades of the 20th century. Among those materials one can certainly find print images that more or less match current understanding of manhua as “comics” or “cartoons.” But what we call manhua today are not necessarily manhua as imagined by readers nearly a century ago. Put another way, when we apply the current notion of manhua to the past, we risk losing a historicized sense of what those images meant and did in their own time.

My book Manhua Modernity: Chinese Culture and the Pictorial Turn argues that we can achieve a more historically informed perception of manhua by examining concrete instances of their symbiosis with the pictorial publications that originally hosted them. This short essay returns to that argument by walking through an example of what manhua meant and did in an entire issue of the eight-page weekly illustrated magazine Shanghai Sketch (1928-1930). What I hope to show is that in the case of Shanghai Sketchall the images—whether reproduced from photographs or line drawings—were, in a sense, manhua. And all of them, whatever the subject matter, can only be fully understood when viewed as elements of a carefully crafted visual journey through an issue of a magazine designed to appeal to and construct a certain kind of reader. Manhua, as we shall see, were not just discrete comics or cartoons; in the case of Shanghai Sketchmanhua referred to the practice of deploying images and text together in the construction of the pictorial magazine. Continue reading

Drawing from Life review

MCLC Resource Center is pleased to announce publication of Alfreda Murck’s review of Drawing from Life: Sketching and Socialist Realism in the People’s Republic of China, by Christine I. Ho. The review appears below and at its online home: My thanks to Jason McGrath, our visual media studies book review editor, for ushering the review to publication.

Kirk Denton

Drawing from Life: Sketching and
Socialist Realism in the People’s Republic of China

By Christine I. Ho

Reviewed by Alfreda Murck

MCLC Resource Center Publication (Copyright August, 2021)

Christine I. Ho. Drawing from Life: Sketching and Socialist Realism in the People’s Republic of China Oakland, CA: University of California Press, 2020. 308 pp. 83 color illustrations. ISBN 9780520309623 (cloth)

With the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, artists and arts administrators had the challenge of reworking both the methods and the content of art making. Their goal was to create a modern form of art appropriate for the new socialist China. How could artists be made cultural workers for the promotion of socialism? Could attitudes be molded so that art could serve the new socialist state?

Christine I. Ho provides an account of the seventeen-year effort, from 1949 to the eve of the Cultural Revolution, to forge a socialist-realist style of drawing and painting. The book is organized in seven chapters divided into two parts, plus an introduction and epilogue.

The book’s main theme is the importance of “mass sketching” that took teachers and students out of the art academies to record the common people, the masses. In Chinese Communist rhetoric, “mass” or “the masses” (群众) refers to the people—who were, at least in theory, the arbiters of all policy. Mao Zedong insisted that the Communist Party had to rely on the masses for its authority and had to learn from them. As a way to learn from peasants and workers, mass sketching was an important tool of political education. It transformed how painting was created and how China was pictured. Continue reading

Wayfaring: Photography in 1970s-80s Taiwan

Journeys of self and society at the end of martial law
Australian Centre on China in the World, ANU
Curated by Dr Shuxia Chen and Dr Olivier Krischer

As Taiwanese society was coming to terms with a new political reality in the 1970s and 1980s, many artists and intellectuals addressed issues of locality, history and cultural identity. Despite the pressure on civil society, Taiwan’s visual culture flourished, with photography playing a key role as a visual medium that intersected many creative practices and platforms. Pioneering photographers produced groundbreaking works across these decades, from experimental art to photojournalism and much in between.

The exhibition adopts the concept of ‘wayfaring’ from the phrase ‘找路’, used by the seminal figure Chang Chao-Tang 張照堂 to discuss his work in these decades. Here, the term lyrically evokes both the actual journeys that artists undertook, searching for the real-life experiences and sentiments of their subjects, as well as their personal, introspective searches for a way forward, a new path, through creative experimentation with the photographic medium.

Drawn from the collection of the National Taiwan Museum of Fine Arts, with some additional works loaned directly from the artists, this broad selection of photographs reflects the diversity and shifting experiences of Taiwanese society and culture at this pivotal time. Wayfaring features 35 still images by 12 artists, including Chang Chao-Tang 張照堂, Chien Yun-Ping 簡永彬, Chuang Ling 莊靈, Ho Ching-Tai 何經泰, Hou Tsung-Hui 侯聰慧, Hsieh Chun-Te 謝春德, Hsieh San-Tai 謝三泰, Juan I-Jong 阮義忠, Kao Chung-Li 高重黎, Lien Hui-Ling 連慧玲, Wang Hsin 王信, Yeh Ching-Fang 葉清芳.

Exhibition info:…/wayfaring-photography-1970s-80s… Continue reading

“Maple” comic book adaptation

MCLC Resource Center is pleased to announce publication of Lena Henningsen and Joschua Seiler’s translation of “Maple” (枫), a comic book (连环画) adapation of the 1979 “scar” short story by Zheng Yi 郑义. The translation, with illustrations, appears here: You’ll also find there a link to Lena Henningsen’s introduction to the text.


Kirk Denton

Chen Yanqiao exhibit

Source: China Daily (6/28/21)
Woodcuts show a review of a passionate age
By Lin Qi |

Lu Xun and Maxim Gorky, by Chen Yanqiao. [Photo provided to China Daily]

Lu Xun the noted writer and scholar started the New Woodcut Movement in the 1930s, encouraging young artists to use the form as a tool to give the masses a greater sense of knowledge, culture and revolutionary ideas. Among those devoted followers, Chen Yanqiao was a pioneer with dozens of excellent works which spoke on the plight of people and the fight for independence and revival.

Call to Arms, an exhibition at Liu Haisu Art Museum, until July 18, reviews Chen’s career utilizing woodcut engraving to address his concerns for the people and nation. Chen’s works provide a sample of the revolution of modern Chinese art, marked by a humanistic spirit.

As Chen once said: “An artist must understand history and people. He must be a heroic spokesperson for people.” Continue reading

Rain in Plural . . . and Beyond

Film: Rain in Plural . . . and Beyond
Poetry, Translations, Inkwork, and Guzheng Harp Music with Fiona Sze-Lorrain
Columbia Institute for Ideas and Imagination

From the Institute webpage and additional information:

One of the rare few English-language poets of our present times working across genres and three or more languages and cultures, Fiona Sze-Lorrain presents us poems from her latest collection Rain in Plural (Princeton University Press, 2020), and shares her ongoing processes of translation, music, and artmaking that are in parallel to her writing. In this film, she also reads bilingual poems and translations of Chinese contemporary poets Yin Lichuan and Ye Lijun, American poet Mark Strand, as well as performs a classical piece High Moon on the guzheng.