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

Many people in the West can recognise an image of Mao Zedong (1894–1976) and know that he was an important Chinese leader, but few appreciate the breadth and depth of his political and cultural significance. Fewer still know what the Chinese Cultural Revolution (1966–76) was, or understand the extent of its influence on art in the West or in China today. This anthology, which is the first of its kind, contends that Maoism and the Chinese Cultural Revolution were dominant cultural and political forces in the second half of the twentieth century – and that they continue to exert influence, globally, right up to the present. In particular, the book claims that the Chinese Cultural Revolution deserves a more prominent place in twentieth-century art history. Exploring the dimensions of Mao’s cultural influence through case studies, and delineating the core of his aesthetic programme, in both the East and the West, constitute the heart of this project. While being rooted in the tradition of social art history and history, the essays, which have been written by an international community of scholars, foreground a distinctively multidisciplinary approach. Collectively they account for local, regional and national differences in the reception, adoption and dissemination of – or resistance to – Maoist aesthetics.

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The art of contradiction

Art and images were and continue to be central channels for the transnational circulation and reception of Maoism. While there are several books about the significance of Mao Zedong and the Chinese Cultural Revolution, this collection of seventeen essays constitutes the first effort to demonstrate the global influence of Maoism on art and images, from 1945 to the present. The Introduction explores the protean quality of this political phenomenon, especially when it crossed paths with, and was expressed through, the visual arts. After providing an overview of the contents and organisation of the chapters, which challenge the traditional geographies of art history, the Introduction states that collectively, the studies reveal that the cultural contradictions that are always present in art and art history research remain a powerful source of political social, and aesthetic transformation.

in Art, Global Maoism and the Chinese Cultural Revolution