Liu Dahong: stranded objects and shame in Chinese contemporary post-socialist art.

Donald, Stephanie (2015) Liu Dahong: stranded objects and shame in Chinese contemporary post-socialist art. Affirmations of the Modern, 2 (2). pp. 55-80. ISSN 2202-9885

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The Shanghai-based artist, Liu Dahong, was born in 1962, in the former German colony of Qingdao, in China’s eastern seaboard province of Shandong. Liu is a versatile and ideologically ambitious painter who has been active during the period of economic and social upheaval that began in 1978: Deng Xiaoping’s “Reform China.” In this article, I focus primarily on a pair of oil paintings Liu made a decade into the Reform era that make knowing reference to the grotesque cruelties and perversions of Hieronymus Bosch: Fairytales of the Twelfth Month (Childhood) (1987) (Figure 1) and The Awakening of Insects (Chaos) (1988) (Figure 2). Both exemplify the characteristic feature of his work that I want to highlight: his ability to stage, in his paintings and installations, a provocative and often satirical conversation between one phase of China’s revolutionary past and its post-socialist present—to whit the Cultural Revolution and Reform China, respectively. In doing so, Liu exposes a contradiction at the very heart of contemporary Chinese society and culture: the way that the past is consistently treated as a fixed determinant narrative, at the same time as the present is officially depicted as being unscarred by the traumatic nature of that past. In Fairytales of the Twelfth Month and The Awakening of Insects Liu incorporates the convulsions of the Communist Party State’s scopic regime in the late Maoist period, by throwing together, in carnivalesque mayhem, bizarre revolutionary episodes and the equally strange manifestations of China’s turn to capitalist tendencies through economic “opening up.” In more recent years, since 2007, Liu has produced lithographs of these two paintings and reflected publicly on the significance of the times and events they depict in a series of published Notebooks and Textbooks. In these commentaries, he explores the exegetical continuity and hyperbole that highlight the persistence of Maoist structures of rhetorical occlusion masking the dark side of late Chinese modernity.

Additional Information:This is an online journal so there is no print version. It is open access.
Keywords:Chinese art, Contemporary visual arts, Cultural Revolution History, Childhood and memory, History and period in modern China, modernism in China
Subjects:V Historical and Philosophical studies > V241 Chinese History
T Eastern, Asiatic, African, American and Australasian Languages, Literature and related subjects > T130 Chinese Society and Culture studies
V Historical and Philosophical studies > V350 History of Art
Divisions:College of Arts
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ID Code:31949
Deposited On:23 Jul 2018 14:13

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