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Skip to 0 minutes and 9 secondsIn July 2012, Song Zhen, a young artist and a teacher at China Academy of Art, led a group of students in the Total Art Studio to Diankou, a town two hours south of Hangzhou, where the art school is located. Over the previous three decades, Diankou had transformed itself from an agricultural area to an industrial and commercial center. With a per capita GDP over US$10,000, Diankou was one of the wealthiest towns in China.

Skip to 0 minutes and 44 secondsWith the support of the local government, the students visited close to a hundred families, and then initiated several projects in public spaces to promote civic participation.

Skip to 1 minute and 0 secondsOn the morning of July 27, fifteen sets of wooden tables and benches were placed in the central plaza of the Culture and Sports Park in Diankou. Officials from 15 of the 23 villages within Diankou township were invited by the students to hear the demands of the villagers.

Skip to 1 minute and 43 secondsAfter the conversations, the village heads were asked to write down their promises on the tables. Most used chalk; a few who were good at calligraphy used brush and ink.

Skip to 2 minutes and 1 secondOver the next 10 days, the students carved the writings into the tables using printmaking skills they had learned in the art academy. On August 6, villagers were invited back to the plaza. The students helped them to make rubbings of the carved promises so they could take these promises back home. Later all the tables and chairs were moved to a public hall in the town center, open to any villager to come and make a rubbing.

Skip to 2 minutes and 40 secondsIt has been the practice for all village heads in Diankou to publish their promises on large billboards in the town center once they are elected. The art students helped to extend this practice by making the promises more personal, hand-written and hand-carved,

Skip to 2 minutes and 59 secondsand more tangible: now the commitments made by the village heads are displayed not only in the town center, but also in villagers' homes. In this project, visual practices, calligraphy and woodcarving, were integrated into political practices, making both more exciting.

Case study: "Diankou"

In July 2012, Song Zhen, a young artist and a teacher at China Academy of Art, led a group of students in the Total Art Studio to Diankou, a town two hours south of Hangzhou, where the art school is located. With the support of the local government, the students visited close to a hundred families, and then initiated several projects in public spaces to promote civic participation.

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This video is from the free online course:

Discovering Socially Engaged Art in Contemporary China

City University of Hong Kong

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