TrAIN Open Lecture by Martina Köppel-Yang: Advance through Retreat

Open Lecture

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Zheng Guogu, My Teacher, 1994, C-Print

For nearly two decades, traditional Chinese culture and traditional media has been a subject within the field of contemporary Chinese art. Numerous biennials and exhibitions on the topic—for example, the project for the first Chinese Pavilion at the ‘Venice Biennial in 2003’, and most recently ‘Ink Art: Past as Present in Contemporary China’ at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (Dec. 2013)— indicate the existence of a tendency that is gaining ever greater importance, a tendency which shows the apparent need to rediscover and revaluate Chinese traditional culture. Up to the present day, the subject is mostly discussed under aspects of technique, media, aesthetics and values associated with traditional Chinese literati culture. The subject is tackled either to reaffirm a Chinese cultural identity or to revisit the East/West dichotomy, a specter haunting Chinese cultural theory and critique since the mid-19th century. Yet, there are other crucial facets to traditional Chinese culture that have been vital for contemporary Chinese culture since its emergence in the late 1970s. These artistic positions use tradition to develop autonomous languages uttering positions of resistance to overall assimilating tendencies. Here the retreat into tradition is employed as an efficient strategy facing a specific historical moment.

Martina Köppel-Yang is an independent scholar and curator with a Ph.D in East Asian Art History from the University of Heidelberg. She has curated and co-curated numerous exhibitions and written extensively on the subject of contemporary Chinese Art. Publications include: Semiotic Warfare – The Chinese Avant-garde 1979 – 1989, a Semiotic Analysis, Hong Kong: timezone 8, 2003.

This free event is a collaboration between the TrAIN Research Centre at The University of the Arts and Tate Research Centre: Asia Pacific.

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