Arts and Culture
The Self in Contemporary Chinese Artists
It is confusing for artists to have a sense of self in China within a global context. On the one hand the government wants artists to trade with the West but on the other they want to keep their communist policies that restrict freedom of expression. Many artists have told me that they will work with the government and give them the benefit of the doubt so that China will have time to grow into a more stable country, but some have suffered as a consequence of the strict rules that will haunt them for the rest of their lives. There is, then, a crisis among contemporary Chinese artists about the nature of the self and its relation to the political order. When the political order represses the self, the self attempts to speak through artwork. I argue that contemporary Chinese artists are alerting society not only for the self and subjectivity but also for their home and country. This sense of self that we see in their work and practice can be explained in terms of a univocity of being and as a plane of immanence that Deleuze discusses in his work such as A Thousand Plateaus (1980) with Guattari. Reading Chinese artists through the lens of Deleuze shows us how we should not have boundaries and that life is about becoming and not a means to an end. Laotzu’s Dao in 500 BCE resonates the work of Deleuze: Becoming, Particularity, and Univocity.