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Historicity of “The Great Wall” of China in Contemporary Chinese Art: In the Case of Installation and Performance Art after the 1980s

chung changmi 1

1명지대학교

Accredited

ABSTRACT

This paper investigates features of Chinese installation and performance art practices which have revolved around the theme of the Great Wall of China since the 1980s, thereby revealing the symbolism of the relic in contemporary Chinese art. To the Chinese, the Great Wall means more than fortifications; they have projected their philosophy and ideology onto the wall in every moment of history. In contemporary Chinese art―whose full development was spurred by the end of the Cultural Revolution in 1976―the Great Wall has not only served as a site to practice art embodying the history, culture and ideology of the contemporary Chinese citizens, but also constituted the artworks themselves. In this paper, Chinese installation and performance art practices from the 1980s are classified into three periods, with the ground-breaking exhibition titled The China/Avant-Garde Exhibition (1989) bifurcating the first two. The third period begins in the 2000s when China consolidated its status in the international scene, keeping up with the rest of the world. Artworks of each period reflected different aspects of the Great Wall; the wall was an organism bearing the scars of modern history, or a metaphor for a materialistic society. Art practices staged in a specific site tend to build close relationships with the historicity of the site. Just as the same historic event is interpreted differently in every period, so varies the significance of the site. In this sense, diverse approaches to interpreting a specific historical heritage may open up possibilities for novel artistic attempts.

Citation status

* References for papers published after 2022 are currently being built.