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Art Worldings: Gender and Globalization in Chinese Contemporary Art

Sasha Welland
Date and Time: 
Thursday, January 17, 2019 - 16:30

Department of Anthropology
Main Quad - Building 50
Room 51A (Colloquium Room)


During the lead-up to the 2008 Beijing Olympics, the censorious attitude that characterized China’s post-1989 official response to contemporary art gave way to a new market-driven, culture-industry valuation of art. Through ethnographic analysis of cultural encounters involving artists, curators, officials, and urban planners, this talk examines the interlocking power dynamics in this transformational moment and rapid rise of Chinese contemporary art into a global phenomenon. A contentious encounter between U.S. feminist art icon Judy Chicago and Chinese artists, during a restaging of the Communist Red Army’s Long March as transnational art project, reveals and undoes center-periphery understandings of the world that have structured discourses of global art and global feminism. The subsequent work of Lei Yan, one of the participants in this encounter, draws attention to haunting absences in conventional stories of art, feminism, and nation. Her artistic practice produces a differential consciousness about the shifting role of art—as ideological, institutional, and imaginative—within various configurations of power. It also opens feminist sightlines of comparison with Ai Weiwei’s bad boy art of political dissent and Hung Liu’s diasporic art of Asian/Asian American minor transnationalism.

This talk serves, in part, as a feminist counter-story to the current exhibition Art and China after 1989: Theater of the World, on view at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art until February 24, 2019.


Sasha Su-Ling Welland is Associate Professor of Gender, Women & Sexuality Studies at the University of Washington, Seattle. Her research focuses on transnational feminisms, ethnographic aesthetics, and visual culture. She is the author of A Thousand Miles of Dreams: The Journeys of Two Chinese Sisters (2006) and Experimental Beijing: Gender and Globalization in Chinese Contemporary Art (2018)