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Daniel Dezeuze and China from scroll to (TV) screen

Sarah Wilson looks beyond the standard formalist readings of the artist Daniel Dezeuze’s work and follows his trajectory into the 1980s, when he participated in an official exchange visit to China; tracing the episode right up to the present, with the installation that Wilson proposed for the first Asian/fifth Guangzhou Triennale.

in Art, Global Maoism and the Chinese Cultural Revolution

Could one at once be a Maoist and poke fun at Mao’s cult? This is the central issue explored in Jacopo Galimberti’s chapter, which investigates aspects of Italian Maoism as they were played out in four publications: the hardline newspaper Servire il Popolo, the counter-cultural magazine Re Nudo, the intellectual periodical Che Fare and the fanzine A/traverso. By 1976 some Italian militants were advocating a new form of Maoism that conflated pop culture, autonomist Marxism, Gilles Deleuze’s and Félix Guattari’s philosophy and, last but not least, avant-garde art.

in Art, Global Maoism and the Chinese Cultural Revolution

The social inequalities and dictatorial regimes of Latin America also fostered diverse and powerful Maoist movements. Ana Longoni focuses on several case studies to analyse the impact of Maoism in Argentina, Colombia and Peru. In the case of the artist Juan Carlos Castagnino, who is often considered to be the official painter of the Argentinian Communist Party, she emphasises how his relationship with China informed both his politics and his practice. She also compares the Argentinian artist Diana Dowek and the Colombian Clemencia Lucena in relation to the theories developed by the Argentinian writer Ricardo Piglia, who was close to Maoist positions in the 1970s. The subsequent case studies presented concern the Colombian art group Taller 4 Rojo, which developed a wide range of pedagogical projects, and the ‘Black Folder’ created by the Peruvian collective Taller NN, whose subversion of the image of Mao was considered to be unacceptable by Maoists and anti-Maoists alike in the violent context of Peru.

in Art, Global Maoism and the Chinese Cultural Revolution

Allison Myers discusses the strange marriage of Greenbergian formalism with Maoist militancy that characterised the work of the French artists’ collective known as Supports/Surfaces. By looking at its journal, Peinture: Cahiers Théoriques, she demonstrates how the group used Mao’s theory of contradictions to rejuvenate both the avant-garde and French painting via an expanded concept of materialism.

in Art, Global Maoism and the Chinese Cultural Revolution
Three visions of making China great again

This chapter charts the changing nature and transformation of Maoist propaganda and iconography in China from 1949 to 1979. Providing rare insight into the mechanics of the production and distribution of art and propaganda, Stefan R. Landsberger’s contribution focuses on three examples, explaining and giving context to a variety of contradictions, which upset any homogeneous treatments of this surprising chapter of Chinese art history. Landsberger demonstrates how, rather than conforming to any kind of cultural directives, Maoist art and propaganda from this period often subverted rather than affirmed Mao’s Yan’an Talks.

in Art, Global Maoism and the Chinese Cultural Revolution
A historical perspective

This chapter outlines the longue durée of Chinese political art from the 1940s onwards. Tracing the shift in China from realism to socialist realism and then to socially engaged avant-garde art, it argues that beneath such transformations was a redefinition of art and its epistemological relation to national identity and societal change. Interrogating paradigmatic shifts of political discourse and artistic praxis, Yan Geng’s contribution uncovers the roots of contemporary Chinese art and explains the complex relationships that exist between the cultural production of the revolution and the art of post-Maoist China.

in Art, Global Maoism and the Chinese Cultural Revolution
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The art and politics of West German Maoism

Lauren Graber and Daniel Spaulding’s joint contribution, ‘The Red Flag: the art and politics of West German Maoism’, maps artistic Maoism in West Germany from the late 1960s to the early 1970s, tying it to both the student movement and the extra-parliamentary opposition. Looking at a broad sample of artists, the authors demonstrate how the image of Mao and the politics for which it stood became contested terrain where the complex dialectic of Pop art and revolution was played out in perhaps its most spectacular form.

in Art, Global Maoism and the Chinese Cultural Revolution

Postmodernism is usually framed as a Western movement, with theoretical and philosophical roots in Europe. Victoria H. F. Scott’s chapter links artistic postmodernism to the influence of Maoism in the West, specifically through the dissemination and absorption of the content and form of Maoist propaganda. Taking into consideration the broad significance of Mao for art and culture in the West in the second half of the twentieth century, the chapter comes to terms with the material effects of a global propaganda movement which, combined with the remains of a personality cult, currently transcends the traditional political categories of the Left and the Right.

in Art, Global Maoism and the Chinese Cultural Revolution
Feminist aesthetics and ‘The Red Room for Vietnam’

Elodie Antoine explores the inability of Maoist artists in France to supersede the standard gender biases that were prevalent in the 1960s. While the artists connected to the Salon of Young Painting posed strong challenges to the bourgeois nature of art production, they could not escape the reproduction of masculine power structures, characteristic of both the East and the West at this time.

in Art, Global Maoism and the Chinese Cultural Revolution
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Vision, visibility and power in colonial India

Beyond its simple valorisation as a symbol of knowledge and progress in post-Enlightenment narratives, light was central to the visual politics and imaginative geographies of empire. Empires of Light describes how imperial designations of ‘cities of light’ and ‘hearts of darkness’ were consonant with the dynamic material culture of light in the nineteenth-century industrialisation of light (in homes, streets, theatres, etc.) and its instrumentalisation through industries of representation. Empires of Light studies the material effects of light as power through the drama of imperial vision and its engagement with colonial India. It evaluates responses by the celebrated Indian painter Ravi Varma (1848–1906) to claim the centrality of light in imperial technologies of vision, not merely as an ideological effect but as a material presence that produces spaces and inscribes bodies.