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Welcome to week 2


1. A few words about Week 1

The comments by all of you are truly amazing. You’ve made many insightful and poetic observations of the three art projects. Some of you have focused more on the projects’ social impact; others have paid more attention to these projects’ visual qualities.

I see two questions being raised by many of you:

1) What is the environmental situation in China? I recommend you check out this website: https://www.chinadialogue.net/.

2) How should we evaluate the impact of a socially engaged artwork? I already mentioned Grant Kester’s proposal in my video (1.9). You are also encouraged to check out “Field” (http://www.field-journal.com/), an online journal initiated by Grant, which aims to put multidisciplinary analysis into practice. I have to say, most people (including myself) have not moved fast enough. We still rely on the traditional form of art criticism, which is far from adequate. We should interview the truck drivers in “Moving Rainbow,” investigate what happened to the scavengers when “Beijing Besieged by Waste” triggered a clean-up, etc. It would be ideal if a researcher (an anthropologist or a sociologist) could get involved from the very beginning of a socially engaged project and follow its entire course of development.

2. Overview of Week 2

When we want to express our opinions on important social issues, we tend to think of speaking and writing. What strategies do socially engaged artists use when they want to speak out?

This week, we will look at three case studies where the artists expressed their opinions not through language, but through performance in public space. The case studies are:

  • “Keepers of the Waters” in Chengdu in 1995,
  • “Qianmen Wedding Photo Shoot” in Beijing in 2009,
  • and “Everyone’s East Lake” in Wuhan in 2010.

You will also be asked to share a socially engaged artwork from your region that uses performance as a core strategy.

3. A few reminders

1) It’s great to see that many of you have already visited http://seachina.net/. My lecture only provides an introduction to each project; you can see a lot more details on seachina.net. You can click on an image on the wall to see it in high-resolution, and find additional information. I apologize that we haven’t been able to add English subtitles to all the video clips and translate the Chinese news articles on these projects. It’s already been an enormous amount of work to build seachina.net. (Sarah is the hero – over the past two years, she has processed thousands of images and hundreds of videos, added information in both English and Chinese for each image, and translated many of the video clips.)

2) Please remember to click the “Mark as complete” button on the bottom of the page as you finish each step. This helps you to track your progress, and also helps me to see how all the learners are doing.

3) Lastly, if you think this course can be valuable to your friends and colleagues, please do share the link with them. I hope more people will get exposed to Chinese socially engaged art, a field that deserves more attention.

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This article is from the free online course:

Discovering Socially Engaged Art in Contemporary China

City University of Hong Kong