This research dedicates itself to Chinese socially-engaged art, which is a rarely discussed subject among the existing relevant studies. I employ an interdisciplinary methodology combining visual arts theories and performance studies to analyze the artistic strategies of these artworks, so as to reveal how do they attempt to bring changes in the political, economic and spiritual territories of China. The two crucial strategies embodied are "constructed situation" and "invisible theater", which root in the concept of Guy Debord and the method of Augusto Boal.
Since the 1960s, a new art genre has emerged evidently in the West, that is, the art doesn't only reflect the society, but also intervene in the society. From the 1990s, art scholars such as Claire Bishop, Shannon Jackson began to theorize about this “socially-engaged art”. Although Chinese contemporary art only departed from the mid-80s, since the beginning of the current century, more and more Chinese artists gain international acclaims for their socially-engaged projects. For instance, Ai Weiwei’s works often question the functions and censorship of the government, Wu Wenguang’s projects retrospect the memories and influences of communism, Qiu Zhijie concerns the economic boom and the spiritual crisis. It is prominent that the society of China today is unique in the world, as it was born in communism yet developing drastically with capitalism. Thus we have to ask, what roles could art play in this peculiar society? Are there any adaptions on artistic strategies from the Chinese artists compared to the Western ones?
This four-year PhD project is supported by the China Scholarship Council (CSC).