During the first years of the new millennium in Beijing, my ethnographic research focused on the role of artists in China’s bid to “link tracks with the world” (yu shijie jiegui). In 2001, China’s entry into the WTO, successful bid for the 2008 Olympics, and first-time qualification of a national soccer team for the World Cup briefly gave rise to the phrase ru shi or “to enter the world”; the sought-after goal suddenly seemed within grasp. I followed artists and their interlocutors from art classrooms to cramped apartment studios to an expanding number of local exhibition spaces, through a city that many likened to a massive construction zone. Cranes swung through the sky. Migrant workers from the countryside labored, night and day, on the steel-beam skeletons of new high-rise buildings. The artists I came to know spent their time weighing these changes while trying to craft a space for themselves within a landscape of physical and social transformation. Their paths through the city mapped a network that extended in new ways to other parts of China and the world. I follow the people and material objects that travel across space and time in these art worldings to ask: How do these social actors understand and enact what counts as “art”? In doing so, how do they interpret and represent what counts as “Chinese”? And, to what extent do feminist art practices, which have not been granted equal visibility on a global stage, provide alternative answers to these questions?
University of Washington Links
I will be teaching a new Autumn 2012 course! GWSS 290: Feminist Art and Visual Culture in a Global Perspective offers students a unique opportunity to explore feminist art and the multiple contexts of its creation and circulation through an exciting series of events at UW and in the community, at the Henry Art Gallery, Seattle Art Museum, and Seattle Public Library.
Sonal Khullar, Assistant Professor of Art History, and I have organized New Geographies of Feminist Art: China, Asia, and the World to take place at UW, November 15-17, 2013. With panels and roundtables featuring scholars, artists, and curators, this international conference examines the practice, circulation, and cross-cultural significance of feminist art from Asia.