The Centre for Chinese Visual Arts (CCVA) at Birmingham City University aims to foster new understandings and perspectives of Chinese contemporary arts, design and visual culture through interdisciplinary practices and theoretical studies. During its first decade, CCVA has established a unique position in the UK to pioneer research in the field. We are now convening a two-day conference on the topic of ‘Everyday Legend: Reinventing Traditions in Contemporary Chinese Art’. Researchers, curators, art historians, critics and artists at all stages of their careers worldwide are invited to participate.
Tradition stands in the first instance for the heritage – including its intangible dimensions – of cultural activities and products whose possible extinction is now sharply profiled by relentless social adjustments to standardised industrial production, transnational distribution, mass marketing, centralised media flows, and patterns of imagination. In China, traditions have been interrupted. During the early development of the People’s Republic of China, major cities were industrialised and historical architecture was severely neglected. The Cultural Revolution (1966-76) provided an extraordinary example of political mobilisation directed against the material and cultural vestiges of the past. Since the 1980s, the pace of globalisation and the force of its reshaping influences have posed a serious threat to the sustainability of Chinese traditions, as Western culture has permeated Chinese cities and accelerated their ‘internationalisation’. Urbanisation and tourism have turned Chinese traditional art and crafts from indigenous to touristic and commercial, from the ‘local’ to the ‘global’. Today in China, much of what is described as ‘traditional’ is no longer part of an everyday reality, but is instead a transformed panoply of material culture, ranging from the discrete displays of museum cases to monumental structures of historical significance.
To reflect critically upon this cultural anxiety, will tradition reinvent the past for the future and translate from China to the world? This unique situation in China provides contemporary artists with challenges and opportunities, as traditions are constantly reassessed, and reinvented. Looking towards the fragmented traditions, artists stand in various positions favourable to reimagining, appropriating and subverting the processes that traditional art and crafts have long used, harnessing their symbolic potential and exploiting their cultural resonances. Through their practices, artists re-examine, draw from and are inspired by traditions, which include techniques, forms and materials, as well as aspects of their intangible cultural heritages; they reflect critically upon their current situations and its implications to the present and future, and ultimately, they reposition Chinese contemporary art in the international arena.
We invite respondents to submit papers reassessing the cultural significance of these everyday traditions relevant to China and to the world today, and responding in particular to the relationship between contemporary art and traditional arts and culture in China. We encourage innovative and interdisciplinary perspectives, including art, social sciences, anthropology, visual and material culture and tourism, in order to develop new understandings of Chinese contemporary art in the context of globalisation.
Please submit an abstract of up to 300 words, a 100-word biography, contact information and any institutional affiliations, by 30 April 2018 to firstname.lastname@example.org, with a subject titled ‘11th CCVA Annual Conference’. Any general queries should also be directed to email@example.com. Conference presentations should last no more than 20 minutes. Invited full papers should be completed by 1 February 2019, to be featured in Journal of Contemporary Chinese Art (Intellect) as a special issue in autumn 2019.
This conference will be part of the conclusions of the two-year Leverhulme Trust funded International Network project, ‘Everyday Legend’ (2016-18). Led by CCVA at Birmingham City University, the international partners of the project also include the New Century Art Foundation and the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing, University of Groningen, Goldsmiths College, University of London, and the White Rabbit Contemporary Chinese Art Collection in Sydney.