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The Revolt of the Docile Bodies: A Contextual Analysis of Contemporary Performance Art from China

In a context where for nearly a century the frequent changes in the socio-political structure represented the only connection to continuity, this essay intends to examine the process leading to the emergence of a highly emotionally unsettling form of art and the local and international reactions.
Avant-garde performances and the bodies of the artists are going to be considered as the ultimate material site of underground rebellion to the two-faced state policies, which are promoting the adoption of capitalist practices in a socialist state.
While often scholars of the subject consider body performances as a completely innovative form of art under all perspectives, this study will emphasise how the works can be instead considered as a development of and not a detachment from the previous forms of art. In fact, as in the posters of the Cultural Revolutions, body performances can be considered as a controversial representation of collective feelings. Content is not the element which separates avant-garde from popular art but rather what bonds the visual creation of new bodily dispositions with the wider social changes and what makes ephemeral art fashionable on the international market.

Mostra/Nascondi contenuto.
Introduction An Outline of the Spatial and Temporal Frameworks “Yet, however much we may search for bodies innocent of discourse, we cannot know materiality except through the living of language-inflected social life.” 1 “The body can reveal certain cultural meanings which are articulated in particular historical and cultural historical settings.” 2 Xingwei Yishu, art performances elaborated by Chinese artists in the last twenty to fifteen years, have shaken many of the pillars which through time constituted the essence of Chinese culture. Their allegoric messages challenge ideas of tradition, sexuality, gender, and of personal and physical sufferance. In consideration of the socio-historical context foregoing the emergence of this controversial art, of the high control of the central Chinese government on its citizens, and of the Foucauldian notion of docile body, this essay proposes an approach to understand the performances which is not utterly observant of the canons established by renowned scholars. Many critics see body performances (also known as ephemeral art) as an attempt to invent new forms of identity, instead I believe that the artists are not the originators of modern identities in China, but receptors of some of the dominant leitmotifs experienced by the average citizens which are then embodied in their works. Art performances do not represent a total breakthrough point in the artistic evolution of China, but only an experimental advancement; the intelligible bodies of the artists have become the best tools available to convey a wide range of collective feelings and to represent the Chinese path towards modernity as imagined in the West. In fact, an attentive analysis of performances involving the body allows the comprehension of both the general trends and the individual standpoints: art and its messages vary according to the individual understanding of the wider situation, but equally incorporate the social context and the everyday feelings of many fellow citizens. Even though the artists make strong references to Chineseness and tradition in their performances, their audience is mainly characterised by international connoisseurs. Partially, this is 1 Judith Farquhar, Appetites: Food and Sex in Post-socialist China (Durham, 2002), p. 9. 2 Catherine Hill, ‘On relocating Chinese contemporary art’, Unpublished DPhil dissertation, University of Sussex, 2003, p. 207.

Laurea liv.I

Facoltà: Faculty of Arts and Humanities

Autore: Maria Canfora Contatta »

Composta da 41 pagine.

 

Questa tesi ha raggiunto 191 click dal 09/02/2010.

 

Consultata integralmente 2 volte.

Disponibile in PDF, la consultazione è esclusivamente in formato digitale.