Chineseness as a theoretical, historical, and political problem in global art and exhibition
in Staging art and Chineseness
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Chapter 1 introduces the theoretical, historical, and political dimensions of the term Chineseness as it relates to Chinese artists and global exhibitions. The question of artistic authenticity and what constitutes ‘Chinese contemporary art’ compels new approaches to addressing the identification of artists from China and diasporic elsewheres. The chapter tracks the development of the discourse of Chineseness, articulated by Rey Chow in 1998 as a theoretical problem derived from Orientalism’s systematic exclusivism separating the West from the non-West throughout the twentieth century. Contributions to the discursive shift in the twenty-first century were led by film theorists, including Chow, Sheldon Hsiao-peng Lu, and Shu-mei Shih, who used the term Chineseness to theorize the diasporic differences among sinophonic film scripts in China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Chinese-America. In contrast, the bodily-oriented video works explored in this book update Chineseness as a performative identity. The subjects of film are connected to performance video through the concept of interpellation, traced to the influence of Mao on Althusser’s On Contradiction and the ‘imaginary relationship of individuals to their real conditions of existence.’ Chineseness ultimately represents the fluid, unstable, unfixable meaning of ‘Chinese’ within historical and contemporary discourses for the staging of art and culture.

Staging art and Chineseness

The politics of trans/nationalism and global expositions

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