Use this URL to cite or link to this record in EThOS:
Title: 'Civilising' China : visualising wenming in contemporary Chinese art
Author: Holmes, Rosalind M.
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2015
Availability of Full Text:
Access from EThOS:
Full text unavailable from EThOS. Restricted access.
Access from Institution:
This study examines how the discourse of wenming (civilisation/civility) has been visualised throughout twentieth century Chinese art, with a particular emphasis on contemporary practice. Originally linked to concepts of modernity and change in the early twentieth century I argue that wenming continues to be of crucial importance in understanding how contemporary China wishes to be seen by the rest of the world. Through a series of close visual readings and case studies I explore how wenming attained considerable saliency as it was invoked to address a range of artistic and political reforms which resulted from China's socioeconomic transformations. Individual chapters focus on the work of Sun Yuan and Peng Yu, Liu Gang, Wang Jin and Ai Weiwei amongst others. Taken together they provide an emic account of artistic praxis that seeks to understand contemporary art from China on its own terms. The study begins by examining how wenming was visualised in the early twentieth century. It then charts what happened to the term after the founding of the PRC in 1949 and how its appearance in locations such as Taiwan and Hong Kong provide sites of contention and alterity to mainland wenming discourse. It analyses how the bifurcation between material civilisation and spiritual civilisation that gained prominence following the economic reforms of the 1980s reconfigured the visual art of this period. Then, turning to a single art work, it theorises the relationship of wenming to an emerging corporeal politics. Finally, it explores how the discourse of wenming is being visually articulated in contemporary China as a result of these developments and traces its interaction with consumer culture, urbanisation and the politics of the internet.
Supervisor: Clunas, Craig Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Art ; History of art and visual culture ; contemporary China ; wenming ; civility ; urbanisation ; biopolitics ; digital culture