Research

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Hong Hao, Selected Scriptures: New Political World, silkscreen print, 55 x 76 cm, 1995.

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?

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Miao Xiaochun, Image, black & white photograph, 127 x 305 cm, 2001.

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Miao Xiaochun, Industrial World, black & white photograph, 127 x 252 cm, 1999.