Greetings from Post-PhD Land!
In the last couple of years I’ve been involved in some really exciting exhibition projects, co-edited a few books, published some papers and been appointed as Honorary Visiting Fellow in the School of Museum Studies, University of Leicester and China Editor of Modern Art Asia. I recently started working on a six month contract in the School of Museum Studies as a Research Associate. I’m updating the School’s distance-learning programmes. To find out more, please see my current blog, the imaginatively titled: amyjanebarnes.wordpress.com.
Last Friday afternoon I had my Viva and I passed (with a few corrections)! Am just getting used to being a ‘doctor’. Perhaps, after I’ve recovered a few braincells and had a good rest, I’ll restart this research blog. In the meantime, check out The Attic.
It may be because I’m mired in CultRev art, but I can’t help but see a marked similarity between RSC publicity for David Tennant’s Hamlet, and Mao Goes to Anyuan…
Ah, the art of propaganda is alive and well in contemporary China, I see.
There’s been a really interesting debate about Chinese art, and the current craze for it in the West, on Guardian Unlimited recently.
Jonathan Jones asks:
Isn’t it a bit rich that China, with its human rights record, is being so assiduously courted by so many British museums and galleries?
He suggests that ‘we’ are displaying a blindness towards the reality of the Chinese regime in our seeming obsession for all things Chinese. In my view this is only an extension of the attitude shown by the business world in recent years; dazzled by the prospect of securing a share of a vast, largely untapped consumer base, coupled with the pull of a seemingly endless supply of cheap unregulated labour, makes it easy to cast aside any lingering concerns about human rights. Personally, I feel it is a ‘good thing’ if recent events in Tibet and culturally-Tibetan areas of China cause people in the West to stop and think, although I doubt, given how inextricably linked the Chinese economic and labour market now is with the Western economy, individual ethical concerns would have much impact as a cause for good in China (and I strongly believe that real, permanent change can only occur from within.)
Of course the Chinese people are not to blame; they are equally subject to the vicissitudes of their government. And many of the artists working within China and attracting enormous attention from the Western art world are using their art as subtle commentary on the regime and the official policy of capitalism without democracy, often to the detriment of their careers and personal lives. So, equally, it is difficult to argue that their voices should be silenced because of wider concerns about the conduct of the CCP. And this is exactly the argument taken up by Eliza Gluckman in her response to Jones:
Distancing ourselves from Chinese culture will hurt only those labouring with imagination under censorship – there’s more than terracotta at stake
I guess what would be problematic is if China began to assert its influence over British museums and cultural institutions. And given the track record of the Chinese authorities, I wouldn’t be surprised if they didn’t apply strict conditions with respect to the interpretation of particular objects as a component of any loan or joint exhibition agreements. Indeed reports at the time accused China of trying to censor the Museum für Asiatische Kunst’s recent exhibition of Tibetan artefacts.
2008 is the tenth anniversary of the commencement of diplomatic relations between South Africa and the People’s Republic of China. As part of its activities to celebrate the occasion, the South African government has invited actress, director and blogger Xu Jinglei to visit. Xu is planning to produce a book and documentary about the trip.
The correspondent, Maya Alexandri wonders what the Chinese delegation made of the Apartheid Museum, in relation to the current lack of a similar public response to the Cultural Revolution in China. Although she suggests an implicit admiration for the museum amongst the Chinese visitors, sadly, she doesn’t elaborate – perhaps that line of questioning would have been deemed inappropriate on an official visit?
There’s a really interesting little article by Channel 4 News’ Beijing Correspondent Lindsey Hilsum on their website (thanks to Danwei for the heads-up), in which she examines the use of Cultural Revolution-esque terminology and language by the Chinese authorities when discussing the ‘Tibet issue’. While this is nothing new, of course, for example the Chinese propaganda machine continued to churn out hyper-propagandist posters for use in China long after restrictions on art and design in China had been relaxed, it’s thought-provoking all the same.
…with this PhD thing. My recent lack of activity has been deplorable. My anticipated end-date of September is quickly slipping from view. So, I have made a few resolutions in an attempt to kick-start my brain:
1. I will be at my desk and ready to work at 10am each weekday morning (I’ve already failed miserably!)
2. Each morning will start with a 20min ‘free-writing’ exercise (this is it!)
3. I will achieve at least three things from my ‘to do’ list each day, with a minimum of two being from the ‘pressing/high priority’ list, as opposed to the ‘low priority/ongoing’ list).
4. I will work a minimum of four hours a day exclusively on PhD stuff (reading, writing, researching), finishing by 6pm each day.
To keep myself on the straight and narrow I have instigated a treat system. For each day I achieve resolutions 2-4, I will put a £1 aside to spend in Primark. ;)
Will it work? Only time will tell.
I’m feeling really torn; between my love of China (my obsession, in fact) and distress at what is happening in Tibet. Similarly, I cannot wait for the Olympics in Beijing, and yet I am uneasy about my resultant lack of interest in supporting the boycott of the Games over Darfur and Tibet. Thus, I felt it was wrong for me not to recognise here the ‘cultural genocide’* taking place under the aegis of the Chinese authorities, even though it is decidedly off-topic. ‘Though, having said that, contemporary Chinese activities in Tibet are likely to have a big impact on the image of China in the West, especially given the current attention focused on Chinese heritage and culture. Though only if the media gives it full and due attention (something that appears a little lacking at present, IMHO).
Anyway, Jeremiah and the Peking Duck community are doing a valiant job at keeping readers informed and updated about the situation in Tibet.
In other news, my total lack of posts in recent weeks is mainly due to the fact that I am now well into the writing-up process. And it’s sapping most of my time and energy (as it should!).
*The Dalai Lama’s words, not mine – ‘though I am inclined to agree.
According to the BBC, the French car marker, Citroen, has apologised for an advertisement featuring Mao which ran in the Spanish newspaper El Pais. What I find interesting about this is the response of, presumably, young(er) commentators. Given that their parents and grandparents are likely to have suffered to some extent during the Cultural Revolution, their support for Mao seems surprising. Perhaps the unwillingness, or sheer inability (due to trauma and fear of repercussions) of the older generation to discuss the human aspects of the Cultural Revolution, has created a chasm between the experiences of those who lived through it, and the popular imagining of China under Mao? Would a ‘remembrance’ museum of the Cultural Revolution make a difference?