Inter-area/Border Crossing

Organized Panel Session

3 - Experiments in the Anthropocene: Toward a Transformative Eco-Aesthetic in the Work of Four Contemporary Chinese Visual Artists

Thursday, March 22
7:30 PM - 9:30 PM
Location: Delaware Suite A, Lobby Level

In China, there remains a chasm between the image of the Anthropocene and how it is imagined. That disconnection manifests critically in contemporary Chinese art, the diversity of which reflects various directions in the Chinese environmental imagination. This paper examines the work of Cai Guo-Qiang, Yao Lu, Yang Yongliang, and Chen Qi. In the first part of the paper, I argue that the grammar of Chinese environmental art and art criticism in the work and reception of Cai Guo-Qiang’s Falling Back to Earth series and The Ninth Wave are epistemically inundated with rigid binaries between humans and their environment. I then discuss Yang Yongliang’s inventive video installation Phantom Landscape, which captures the destructive outcome of environmental managerialism in the form of a classical Chinese landscape painting. In contrast, Yao Lu’s photomanipulated series, New Landscapes, is more ambiguous. Through image fabrication, Yao Lu reinvents garbage as a symbol of civilizational excess into a natural phenomenon. Finally, Chen Qi’s work insists upon returning to the political functions of art, placing emphasis on the physical act of making art and its implications. These contrasting approaches underscore how visual art as a medium serves as a starting point in engaging with China’s environmental outcomes in a culturally specific context. Their observations underline interrelations, balance, and parallelisms between humans and nature, rather than furthering the managerial mindset of the status quo.

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