Art’s Precarious Independence in the post-Deng PRC

So flight, the new motif, habit, even ideology, has captured a class of unmoored aspirants not (yet?) prepared for what we would blithely call “freedom”. How then did this happen, and why?

If there is answer it lies in the first and second thirds of the previous century, when art was a state industry, artists ostensibly workers in the service of the State (“people”) whose propaganda requirements both abroad but also at home were manifest and need for prestige equally pressing. A pattern first emergent in the USSR, then, Japan, and finally (after 1949) in the People’s Republic. A game thus of trans-border proportion, already embodying flight. Except that the flight it sponsored was not one of individuals. It was, rather, a colonizing of and by the intellectual classes (“brain workers”) by and of themselves, across but also within borders, whence new univocal political and aesthetic production became more fluently engineered, sustained by a sense of rightness in conformity. Souls soared, inflated with genuine feeling for the revolutionary newness of it all, but there was no Plan B to deal with what happens when large flocks of birds take to the air at a time. There must be an obvious and adequate place to land and replenish.

Except that after 1966, such a place ceased to exist. The Icarus’s had no place to recoup or recalculate: landing privileges were suspended sine diem. Children took their titles and mangled their art. Teaching and passing on ceased. This had it seemed been a fool’s euphoria.

But the roots of this experience are better understood if we look backward in time a bit, to see how Revolutionary Art (as a program) became an orthodoxy in the first place.

Greater Asia’s Triptych of Neo-imperialisms took shape soon after World War I: Imperial Japan, the USSR, and the re-expanded Republic of China. They were not friendly neighbors: neither treaty nor ideology induced cooperation or trust. But one thing was shared from the moment of their birth and over their subsequent lifespans, days of glory, stretching into the ’80s. That was an intuition that the 20th century concept of art as keyed to subliminal messaging or encoding had enormous potential as a political tool. Very consciously in the USSR and in the Japanese colonies of pre-WWII vintage, the co-optation the “new” art and of its practitioners was vigorously pursued and funded so as to add to the arsenal of controlling devices, as tool of both internal persuasion and external negotiation. Indeed, so much so that its induction becomes a way of differentiating “neo” from “original or organic”accidental” empire.)

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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