Art’s Precarious Independence in the post-Deng PRC

That is until the decline fall of the USSR and the advent of Deng Xiaoping’s “Gaige kaifang” (glasnost) fractured the integration/subserviance of public arts that had been the beacon of State Authoritarianism. With the weight of state concern shifting from “warm” idealism to “cold” economics and trade-driven growth, art – that is, highly visible, grand scale art- also had to become “for export”, or (better) for import and exchange, no longer with or under the influence of Eastern Bloc jurying. This had of course already happened in postwar Japan, but with a smoothness and pace of success (quickly prompting a redefinition of global image) reflective of early Cold War cultural subsidy by the US-led “free” art world of The West.

No such cultural “handouts” were forthcoming in the decades following China’s opening, nor that of the FSU. At least in or from the Public Sector. Individual eccentrics with a track record of anti-government petulance and trouble-making were and are of course the exception (viz. Ai Weiwei et al.) But “big” (that is, expensive, creativity intense performance) arts, though dismantled and rebundled in the hope of being recapitalized by the Multinationals and overseas Chinese Communities (the most successfully so in Hong Kong style film, second most in architecture), have failed to generate a string of globally respected hits. Or a “mantra”, or brand logo, that invites broad attention, opens doors for follow-on experiments in the stage arts. The hoped for ripple effect in the wake of the 1998 cross-border staging of Puccini’s Turandot inside the Old Palace, which was indeed a triumph of co-productivity, of creative fusion across the boundaries of archaic cultural traditions, has has instead played out as high velocity same-old same-old: still crowd-drawing but still requiring (to do so) frantic venue-spinning more or less in the proximity of the original. It served surely to further glorify the producer’s own image and reputation for multiversity, but left behind it no permanent performance company or space. It was not the start of a new dialogue, or heightened awareness of how theatrical recombinations might work, what materials they might further exploit: but rather the end of a proto-but-not-yet-genre. When Tan Dun attempted a kind of New York based but Chinese performed reciprocation (“First Emperor, 2007), practically no one came to the ball.

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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