Art’s Precarious Independence in the post-Deng PRC

Art Aflight

The images atop this page summarize best what I remember about the Beijing Olympics of 2008. Li Ning’s daring trapeze walk to light the Torch. The (sadly) cancelled tableau showing Kuafu – China’s Icarus/Prometheus – attempting to soar beyond earth itself in pursuit of th Sun’s Fire. Mark Fisher’s extraordinary “flying carpets” ferrying a childlike rendering of mountain-river-sun (“the world”) over the heads of and often interrupting or blocking the ongoing “show” at ground level. And, of course, Cai Guoqiang’s now infamous 29 footprints suggesting an invisible airborne giant had ignored symbolic propriety and marched/bounced disdainfully over the geomantic core of the imperial-Maoist state at Tiananmen. Perhaps not exactly flight but surely over-ride.

All share the same reference: flight, flying, soaring, transcending. But not JUST rising: doing so in the face of great risk of fall and death or extinguishment. Man without machine or Alpine rappel or harness,  seeking somehow to beak free, literally transcend time and place (the phrase 跨时空 kua shikong or “time-space-straddling” – a neologism I hadn’t yet encountered- was in constant use within Zhang Yimou’s planning circle.)

Apart from fantasies of China’s new space program and the starry-eyed world of computer gaming, human flight was not– or had not been – a subject of much appeal to that country’s painters or even architects. Yet here it was. Obviously the allure of CGI illusionist technology has a great deal to do with this. But to me anyway the flying carpets in particular, presented almost always as interrupting or o’ermasking some more pedestrian (!) and rectangular activity on the geoplane, seemed to address an issue now inescapable for artists and their supposed watchkeeper/wardens in the government. An issue that was not supposed to exist under Maoist socialism. The ladder of diplomas and prizes that was in earlier times a guarantor of stipend, academic affiliation, and of course access to exhibition space (and more prizes) was creaking, in some places falling completely away. Short of achieving “Red-export” status as singers  or dancers, there was no place for talent to harbor, save as supplicants at the bosom of offshore liberal NGO cultural charity.

9 thoughts on “Art’s Precarious Independence in the post-Deng PRC

  1. Throughout this great pattern of things you actually get an A+ with regard to hard work. Exactly where you lost me personally ended up being in your specifics. You know, as the maxim goes, details make or break the argument.. And it couldn’t be much more accurate right here. Having said that, permit me reveal to you what did do the job. The writing is certainly highly powerful and this is probably the reason why I am making an effort in order to comment. I do not really make it a regular habit of doing that. Secondly, whilst I can easily see the leaps in reasoning you come up with, I am not really sure of just how you seem to connect the details that help to make the final result. For the moment I will, no doubt subscribe to your position however wish in the future you link the facts much better. Więcej

    • Dear Więcej =

      I can understand your frustration with an undersupply of pertinent facts. In your environment (what IS centrumeuropy? i’m going to check but don’t read Polish very well…).

      But please understand: I am writing as an independent self-financed (low-or 0$ budget) reporter on fairly difficult cultural subjects, while also trying to make my presentations simple enough for beginners or info-byte collectors. As well, I am a believer in intuition.

      If you want to see my more “hard-core” scholarship, see, which I wrote when still a salaried scholar at Princeton.

      If there is a leaped-over-facts that really confuse, by all means send a comment on the specifics.

      And thanks for your loyalty.

      May I express gratitude too for so many Warsaw readers…. is there a seminar or project behind this?



    • I just discovered your request today, a mere half-year after you sent it – sorry, I’m still learning to navigate in the WordPress system.

      The way to do this is to go to RSS Feed on the home page, that’s exactly what it’s for – auto-updating. I also hear that “Google Plus” does this for you as well, but haven’t trued it. The third possibility is Twitter, join and then add me under “follow” and you will get the updated posts as soon as they are “published”. But I should warn you I have a bad habit of “publishing” way before I have a full essay, and often leave the posts unfinished for months…

      Thanks for your attention.

    • Good to have your feedback.

      Most readers seem to find my posts too long and don’t finish, but I’ll keep you in mind.

      PLEASE DON’T HESITATE TO ASK if there is something you’d like to know more about –

      Jim Polachek, USA

  2. I am only commenting to make you understand of the really good discovery my cousin’s girl developed studying your blog. She came to find plenty of issues, including how it is like to possess an excellent coaching nature to have the others with ease know just exactly various extremely tough issues. You really surpassed our expectations. Thanks for churning out the important, trustworthy, explanatory and in addition unique tips on this topic to Ethel. WWW

    • Dear Warsaw Psychotechnika

      Thanks for your honesty as well as praise. Sometimes negative feedback helps more than positive. You are totally right about “kinda boring”: there have been personal problems that have made it hard to concentrate. Plus, I got stuck with Mo Yan because of his Nobel Prize. I’m not a comp lit person, but a visual one, so it’s been hard and probably a waste of time to pursue his writings other than Red Sorghum.

      My new project is the film Great Road (1934) , which has me much more engaged

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