Session Two: The Question of Frames
Between the mountains and the seas: animating contemporary china
Ros Holmes (Junior Research Fellow in Art History, Christ Church, Oxford)
In 2006 the artist Qiu Anxiong (b. 1972) began work on “The New Book of the Mountains and the Seas” a three channel video animation whose third instalment is due to be released in 2015. Qiu’s video creatively combines elements of the pre-Qin Dynasty (ca. 221-207 BCE) classical Chinese text Shan Hai Jing “Book of the Mountains and the Seas” with explicit references to contemporary political, social, and ecological concerns. Tracing the evolution of Chinese society from the agricultural through the post-industrial to the global, the video subjects the modern history of China to close scrutiny. Created using thousands of monochrome acrylic canvases, which were individually photographed and digitized using stop-motion techniques, Qiu’s animated narratives play with the formal power of acrylic to mirror the traditional practice of ink painting. Through a close reading of this work, this talk examines the recent trend for combining digital media technologies with a retrospective look at China’s cultural past, highlighting how so-called traditional aesthetics are frequently being re-animated as a means to reflect on the restive reality of contemporary China.
Living tradition in the frame
Shane McCausland (Reader in the History of Art of China, Department of the History of Art and Archeology, School of Oriental and African Studies, London)
Intellectual artists in pre-modern China looked upon their own lineage of painting as a living tradition, one rejuvenated even as it was reformed in transmission, such that it would remain fresh while seemingly permanent monuments hewn out of the most hard-wearing stone crumbled. Drawing upon the themes raised by Xu Bing in his lectures, this paper will consider ways in which contemporary artists in China consciously or otherwise reframe tradition, for example through their handling of media that enable scrolling and framing effects and also in terms of form and content, such as the use of landscape to create affective situations or the lyric treatment of lines and strokes from traditional calligraphy.