The dialectical image of empire
in Staging art and Chineseness
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Chapter 4 pivots to the subject of global expositions. Located across the globe in places such as Guangzhou, Taipei, Fukuoka, Gwangju, and Busan in the regions of Asia, the biennials/triennials serve as the very example of a de-centered and decentralized institution for art as they are held in diverse places when once they were reserved solely for Euro-American nations. But contrary to this notion of exhibitionary innovation, the biennial’s organizing principle was first conceived in the nineteenth century – the longest-running artfair, the Venice Biennale, began in 1895. For this reason, the inclusion of China’s artists in the 1993 Venice Biennale was an important ‘first’ in the exhibition of China’s xiandai yishu contemporary art. Significantly, the 1992 Guangzhou Biennale the year before was the first-ever biennial-type art exposition held in China. The Biennale’s archetypal institution provides a useful genealogy for investigating the structural tendencies that were closely related to the representation of nations in the nineteenth-century world’s fairs. In contrast, the political way in which curator/director Okwui Enwezor has contributed to the Documenta quinquennial in Kassel, Germany (inaugurated in 1955) reveals the twenty-first-century potential of the art exposition for showcasing trans/national issues and advocacies.

Staging art and Chineseness

The politics of trans/nationalism and global expositions




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