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Over the past three years, we have been building an online database of Chinese socially engaged art. At this site, you can access detailed visual materials, and watch full interviews with the artists. Socially engaged art projects usually unfold over a period of time, and include many remarkable details. But when a project is summarized into a couple of paragraphs of texts, illustrated with two or three pictures, as it is often done, the richness of the project is lost. Presented this way, socially engaged art may come across as unaesthetic, easy to make, or uninspiring.
So when we set out to build, we decided that for each of the projects, we should present a large set of visual materials. We should foreground photos and videos, instead of texts. We should interview the artist so we can learn the techniques that the artist has developed to overcome complex social and aesthetic challenges. Throughout this course, you are encouraged to check out the site to see full materials on each of the project that we will discuss in this course.

After watching the video above, please visit the “Moving Rainbow” page on

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On this page, you can find pictures of Xiong Wenyun’s initial experiments, spectacular images of the motorcades meandering through the mountains, and newspaper and magazine articles reporting on this project at the time. Try to explore this website and see more details about this art project.

Acknowledgement: We thank all the artists who have generously shared materials with us!

The first phase of this database project was supported by Cass Sculpture Foundation, The Space, and British Council. The second phase of this project was supported by the Research Grants Council of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, China (Project No. 21403014) and City University of Hong Kong (Project No. 6983102).

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Discovering Socially Engaged Art in Contemporary China

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