Art’s Precarious Independence in the post-Deng PRC


But what then will determine the shape (budgetary as well as sensible) for China’s urban and mass media cultures? — in this last remnant (rump) of the pre-liberal Superstates? Its seeming irrelevance apart, the age of self-congratulatory marriage of Art and Power under Mao in the 1950s and 1960s, a cousin to Soviet Agitprop and Japanese Imperial architecture, is not likely to be forgotten. And not surprisingly so. The split of cultural creation into hermetic vs liminal modes had its limits; in a polity of such size and regional disparities, at some point one must expect a spontaneous self-rebalancing momentum returning leverages as well as prestige to at least THE IDEAL of autarchy, non-contamination. There already signs that this kind of unreflective amour propre has (or has been gaining) audiencing, say, on TV, where the Culture-Makers now propose to feed that slice of the domestic public(s) market/audience still unpenetrated or even permanently immune to Globalized Art? Why else the swerve back to (ostensible) interest in “Cultural Heritage Preservation”, extending even “back” in racial time to non-Sinitic “primal” ethnicites, who are ultimate winners in the game of accelerated “cultural tourism”, where remnants of pre-Chinese past not only survive but are making more and more appearances in the mass media.

In retrospect, I think it is coming to be understood by many fresh-from school Chinese blogsters or teaching professionals that the experiments fielded in those “17 years” (1949-1966) carry a feeling of true commitment to the New China that would not return after Mao destroyed those who had built his most inspired temples, but whose disappearance is more and more bemoaned. Just as we outsiders can now better see that there was a good deal more permeability and adaptive genius in play in the age of Zhou Enlai than of Deng or Jiang. So I shall be trying within the limits of archival unavailabilities to revisit the projects that highlighted that Honeymoon interval in the building of a New Chinese aesthetic.

But it will not be easy to put humpty-dumpty back together. As my posts (short essays) accumulate, I have come to realize that revolt and disavowal are as much a part of the process of rebuilding (postmodernizing) as its refabrication. Centers of sentiment proliferate, self-exile becomes permanent, even a way back covered (protected) by individual award; offshore co-linguistic communities go their own way, no longer reliably loyal. The the much-mocked ideal of a “harmonious society” stands little or no chance of putting the pieces back together, except perhaps in form of a new enthusiasm for Militarism . How (or will) the center – the builder and standardizer of all things cultural – hold? That query in itself generates a whole new array of “cultural productions” (their verbiage) well suited to audio-visual review, most especially where we have libraries of related productions from early times.

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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