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Invisible art or invented reality : key artistic strategies of Chinese socially engaged art in the 21st century

Weiwei Sun (UGent)
(2023)
Author
Promoter
(UGent) and (UGent)
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Abstract
This PhD dissertation explores the theoretical background and key artistic strategies employed in Chinese socially engaged art projects in the 21st century. The study challenges the dominant Western perspective on Chinese contemporary art and highlights the unique sociopolitical elements, as well as the innovative approach by Chinese artists in response to their specific Chinese context. The research is structured around three fundamental aspects, as listed below. The first part of the study examines the theoretical foundations of studying Chinese socially engaged art in a two-fold structure. Firstly, it traces Western discourse on socially engaged art and its application to the Chinese context, with an emphasize on the concept of artistic autonomy versus heteronomy. Secondly, it also retrospects Chinese art relating to the evolution of art-society relations in China, from National Realism to Socialist Realism and Cynical Realism. This section highlights the emergence of a ‘Social Turn’ in Chinese art criticism, which accentuates the significance of social engagement in contemporary Chinese art. The second part extracts the critical artistic strategies employed in Chinese socially engaged art projects, adopting a practice-based and embodied methodology. Five crucial artistic strategies have been discovered and studied:‘Replaced Situation,’ in which the artwork creates a new relationship between different social groups, which is often subversive to the conventional reality; ‘Invisible Performance’ refers to artistic actions that go unnoticed or unannounced to the public, to avoid political sanction and in order to instill Chinese philosophical ideas of resistance and revolt; ‘Intermedia and Interdisciplinary approach’ incorporates various mediums and disciplines to create a comprehensive art project; ‘Invented Ritual,’ in which artists devise new rituals to bring communities together and encourage spiritual and physical improvements; ‘Cyber Activism,’ in which digital platforms and social media are employed to facilitate activism and communication. The third objective of this dissertation is to ascertain the mechanisms to frame and structure collaborative, long-term, and process-oriented socially engaged artworks. Building on insights from Performance Studies, i.e., Richard Schechner’s theory of the ‘performance process,’ I examine the different phases of socially engaged art projects, including ‘proto-performance, public performance and aftermath.’ This section underscores the importance of motivation, collaboration, and the consequent impacts of the artworks during the aftermath phase. This PhD dissertation offers new insights into the theoretical background and vital artistic strategies employed in Chinese socially engaged art projects. It emphasizes the unique sociopolitical elements and innovative artistic responses forged by Chinese artists to their specific context. Furthermore, the research provides a framework for interpreting and analyzing the aesthetics and contradictions of socially engaged art from a global view, adding a Chinese and embodied perspective next to the dominant Western standpoint.
Dit doctoraatsproefschrift onderzoekt de theoretische achtergrond en de belangrijkste artistieke strategieën die worden toegepast in sociaal geëngageerde Chinese kunstprojecten in de 21e eeuw. De studie daagt het overheersende westerse perspectief op de hedendaagse Chinese kunst uit en benadrukt de unieke sociaal-politieke elementen en innovaties van Chinese kunstenaars binnen een specifieke Chinese context. Het onderzoek is gestructureerd rond drie fundamentele aspecten, zoals hieronder vermeld. Het eerste deel van de studie onderzoekt de theoretische fundamenten voor het bestuderen van sociaal geëngageerde Chinese kunst in een tweeledige structuur. Ten eerste volgt het het westerse discours over sociaal geëngageerde kunst en de toepassing ervan in de Chinese context, met de nadruk op het concept van artistieke autonomie versus heteronomie. Ten tweede blikt het ook terug op de Chinese kunst in relatie tot de evolutie van de kunst-samenlevingsrelaties in China, van Nationaal Realisme naar Socialistisch Realisme en Cynisch Realisme. Deze sectie benadrukt het ontstaan van een 'Sociale Wending' in de Chinese kunstkritiek, die de betekenis van sociale betrokkenheid in de hedendaagse Chinese kunst accentueert. Het tweede deel haalt de kritische artistieke strategieën naar voren die worden toegepast in sociaal geëngageerde Chinese kunstprojecten, vanuit een praktijkgericht en belichaamd perspectief. Vijf cruciale artistieke strategieën worden uitgezet en bestudeerd: 'Vervangen Situatie', waarbij het kunstwerk een nieuwe omgeschakelde relatie creëert tussen verschillende sociale groepen, wat vaak subversief is voor de conventionele realiteit; 'Onzichtbare Performance' verwijst naar artistieke acties die onopgemerkt of niet aangekondigd blijven bij het publiek, om politieke sancties te vermijden, en opereren volgens Chinese filosofische ideeën van weerstand en opstand te ; 'Intermedia en Interdisciplinaire benadering' omvat de inzet van verschillende media en disciplines om een alomvattend kunstproject te creëren; 'Uitgevonden Ritueel', waarbij kunstenaars nieuwe rituelen bedenken om gemeenschappen samen te brengen en spirituele en fysieke verbeteringen aan te moedigen; 'Cyber Activisme', dat specifieke digitale platforms en sociale media gebruikt om activisme en communicatie te bevorderen. Het derde doel van dit onderzoek is het ontwikkelen van een methodologisch kader om collaboratieve, langdurige en procesgerichte sociaal geëngageerde kunstwerken gestructureerd te analyseren. Door gebruik te maken van inzichten uit Performance Studies, met name de theorie van het 'performanceproces' van Richard Schechner, worden de verschillende fasen van sociaal geëngageerde kunstprojecten onderzocht, met name 'proto-performance, openbare performance en nasleep.' Dit deel benadrukt het belang van motivatie, samenwerking en de daaruit voortvloeiende impact van de kunstwerken tijdens de zogenoemde nasleepfase. Dit doctoraatsproefschrift biedt nieuwe inzichten in de theoretische achtergrond en de cruciale artistieke strategieën die worden aangewend in sociaal geëngageerde Chinese kunstprojecten. Het benadrukt de unieke sociaal-politieke elementen en de innovatieve artistieke strategieën die door Chinese kunstenaars zijn ontwikkeld als reactie op hun specifieke context. Bovendien biedt het onderzoek een kader voor het interpreteren en analyseren van de esthetiek van sociaal geëngageerde kunst, en dit vanuit een mondiaal perspectief, waarbij gepoogd wordt een Chinees en belichaamd perspectief te bieden naast het dominante Westerse perspectief.
Keywords
Chinese contemporary art, Socially Engaged Art, Performance art, art intervention, artistic strategies

Citation

Please use this url to cite or link to this publication:

MLA
Sun, Weiwei. Invisible Art or Invented Reality : Key Artistic Strategies of Chinese Socially Engaged Art in the 21st Century. Ghent University. Faculty of Arts and Philosophy, 2023.
APA
Sun, W. (2023). Invisible art or invented reality : key artistic strategies of Chinese socially engaged art in the 21st century. Ghent University. Faculty of Arts and Philosophy, Ghent, Belgium.
Chicago author-date
Sun, Weiwei. 2023. “Invisible Art or Invented Reality : Key Artistic Strategies of Chinese Socially Engaged Art in the 21st Century.” Ghent, Belgium: Ghent University. Faculty of Arts and Philosophy.
Chicago author-date (all authors)
Sun, Weiwei. 2023. “Invisible Art or Invented Reality : Key Artistic Strategies of Chinese Socially Engaged Art in the 21st Century.” Ghent, Belgium: Ghent University. Faculty of Arts and Philosophy.
Vancouver
1.
Sun W. Invisible art or invented reality : key artistic strategies of Chinese socially engaged art in the 21st century. [Ghent, Belgium]: Ghent University. Faculty of Arts and Philosophy; 2023.
IEEE
[1]
W. Sun, “Invisible art or invented reality : key artistic strategies of Chinese socially engaged art in the 21st century,” Ghent University. Faculty of Arts and Philosophy, Ghent, Belgium, 2023.
@phdthesis{01H8HB6A5RNNWTB4YW650ZF18W,
  abstract     = {{This PhD dissertation explores the theoretical background and key artistic strategies employed in Chinese socially engaged art projects in the 21st century. The study challenges the dominant Western perspective on Chinese contemporary art and highlights the unique sociopolitical elements, as well as the innovative approach by Chinese artists in response to their specific Chinese context. The research is structured around three fundamental aspects, as listed below.

The first part of the study examines the theoretical foundations of studying Chinese socially engaged art in a two-fold structure. Firstly, it traces Western discourse on socially engaged art and its application to the Chinese context, with an emphasize on the concept of artistic autonomy versus heteronomy. Secondly, it also retrospects Chinese art relating to the evolution of art-society relations in China, from National Realism to Socialist Realism and Cynical Realism. This section highlights the emergence of a ‘Social Turn’ in Chinese art criticism, which accentuates the significance of social engagement in contemporary Chinese art.

The second part extracts the critical artistic strategies employed in Chinese socially engaged art projects, adopting a practice-based and embodied methodology. Five crucial artistic strategies have been discovered and studied:‘Replaced Situation,’ in which the artwork creates a new relationship between different social groups, which is often subversive to the conventional reality; ‘Invisible Performance’ refers to artistic actions that go unnoticed or unannounced to the public, to avoid political sanction and in order to instill Chinese philosophical ideas of resistance and revolt; ‘Intermedia and Interdisciplinary approach’ incorporates various mediums and disciplines to create a comprehensive art project; ‘Invented Ritual,’ in which artists devise new rituals to bring communities together and encourage spiritual and physical improvements; ‘Cyber Activism,’ in which digital platforms and social media are employed to facilitate activism and communication.

The third objective of this dissertation is to ascertain the mechanisms to frame and structure collaborative, long-term, and process-oriented socially engaged artworks. Building on insights from Performance Studies, i.e., Richard Schechner’s theory of the ‘performance process,’ I examine the different phases of socially engaged art projects, including ‘proto-performance, public performance and aftermath.’ This section underscores the importance of motivation, collaboration, and the consequent impacts of the artworks during the aftermath phase.

This PhD dissertation offers new insights into the theoretical background and vital artistic strategies employed in Chinese socially engaged art projects. It emphasizes the unique sociopolitical elements and innovative artistic responses forged by Chinese artists to their specific context. Furthermore, the research provides a framework for interpreting and analyzing the aesthetics and contradictions of socially engaged art from a global view, adding a Chinese and embodied perspective next to the dominant Western standpoint.}},
  author       = {{Sun, Weiwei}},
  keywords     = {{Chinese contemporary art,Socially Engaged Art,Performance art,art intervention,artistic strategies}},
  language     = {{eng}},
  pages        = {{XVII, 311}},
  publisher    = {{Ghent University. Faculty of Arts and Philosophy}},
  school       = {{Ghent University}},
  title        = {{Invisible art or invented reality : key artistic strategies of Chinese socially engaged art in the 21st century}},
  year         = {{2023}},
}