China Transformed: Artscape/Cityscape



China is the epicenter of rapid urbanization, provoking responses from artists, photographers, and filmmakers whose focus ranges from optimistic expansiveness to radical dislocation. In this two-day international symposium, leading curators, critics and scholars will look at artists working in different mediums as they react to the new Chinese megacity.

The keynote speaker will be the international authority on classical and contemporary Chinese art Wu Hung. Other participants include Julia Andrews, Hou Hanru, Wendy Larson, William Schaefer, Kuiyi Shen, Jerome Silbergeld, Pauline J. Yao, Deng Kunyan, Bérénice Reynaud, and Zheng Shengtian.

Organized by Department of History of Art, Institute of East Asian Studies, Center for Chinese Studies, and the UC Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive. For information, please contact the Institute of East Asian Studies at 510-643-6492 or email

Exhibition viewing and reception follows the Friday 4:00 pm keynote address.



Bérénice Reynaud
Urban displacement and subterranean ruins in recent Chinese independent films
While the constitutional reform of 1982 guarantees "a citizen's lawful private property" as "inviolable," three series of interrelated events have caused massive destruction of urban areas and population displacement — thus reducing these dreams of ownership to rubble.

  • A general shift from heavy industry to service industry, with the closing down of factories such as iron mills or airplane engine plants, the firing of long-time employees and the "urban redevelopment" of both the plants and the workers housing quarters.
  • The construction of the Three-Gorges Dam, that was made possible by the destruction and flooding of 1,200 communities in the area, forcing the evacuation of 1.24 million residents.
  • The preparation for the Olympics, during which traditional neighborhoods, not only in Beijing but in major "touristic" cities such as Shanghai, were destroyed. In the process, the migrant workers who had come from the countryside to work on demolition and construction sites saw their own temporary housing destroyed, as well as the schools to which they were sending their children.
This paper will examine the way recent Chinese independent films, both documentary and narrative (or "hybrid"), are articulating how the ruins address the spectator, directly or indirectly and reshuffle tropes of historical/architectural memory and nostalgia; how the film's subject(s) is/are posited in relation to the production of ruins — victim, witness, activist, complicit, agent, facilitator, profiteer, bemused spectator, consumer — and whether this large-scale process of urban destruction can produce a new metaphor for desire.

Films discussed:
Wang Bing: West of the Tracks (Tiexi Qu, 2002)
Jia Zhangke: Still Life (Sanxia Haoren, 2006)
Jia Zhangke: Dong (2006)
Jia Zhangke: 24 City (Er Shi Si Cheng Ji, 2008)
Ou Ning and Cao Fei: Meishi Street (2006)
Cui Zi'en: We are the... of Communism (2007)
Peng Xiaolian: Shanghai Kids (2007)
Ying Liang: Good Cats (Hao Mao, 2008)
Olivier Meys and Zhang Yaxuan: A Disappearance Foretold (2008)
Wang Quan'an: Weaving Girl (2008)

Kuiyi Shen
The Practice of Ink and Its Dilemma in the Contemporary Art World
In recent years, Chinese contemporary art has become the object of widespread international interest. A significant segment of the Chinese art scene — art that takes ink as its medium, however, has largely escaped notice. Although it is deeply rooted in traditional Chinese art in terms of form, theme, and materials, and although its practice enjoys unflagging popularity, it has not received the attention it deserves as an aspect of the study of contemporary art. No matter whether in expression of concept, selection of theme, application of skill, or use of materials, the artists today practicing in ink show enormous tolerance and adaptability. Art in ink, like all other contemporary art, faces issues around the individualís relationships to the spiritual world, nature, and society. It engages in constant dialogue and communication with the environment and the people around it and is directly linked to changes in contemporary society, politics, economics, and culture. At the same time, it retains a certain inherent relationship to the traditional culture and stands as a symbol of Chinese cultural identity, but is not to be simply confined within the bounds of traditional culture. Rather, it is clearly affected both in concept and attitude by contemporary society. Some recent exhibitions of ink art have attempted to present the multifaceted process of the development of Chinese contemporary art, to redefine the contemporaneity of this segment of the arts, and to explore the potential inherent in breaking boundaries, so as to encourage dialogue between the art and culture of China and that elsewhere.

Jerome Silbergeld
The New Beijing, The Real Beijing, and Jia Zhangke's The World: A Celluloid Ecology
Jia Zhangke's 2004 film "The World" is set in Beijing's largest theme park, replete with replicas of the world's most famous architectural monuments, and it explores the "New Beijing" from the perspective of its facades. Told from the point of view not of the World Park's patrons but of the staff who work there, Jia's cinematic study subtly raises questions about China's workplace and natural ecologies and the entire issue of China's newly-borrowed Western culture. The filmmaker's attitude toward this ersatz culture is sharply critical, but is it accurate? This paper not only questions whether the future might bring a different perspective to these questions but puts them in the context of China's long history of cultural appropriation, replication, and its own distinctive understanding of facades.

Wu Hung
Contemporary Chinese Art and China's Urban Transformation
The past twenty five years have witness two parallel changes in Chinese art and living environment, each unprecedented in the country's history. Whereas all the major urban centers have undergone a process of radical and at times traumatic transformation, contemporary art has also developed from scattered "un-official" expressions to a broad field encompassing divergent stylistic and ideological trends. This lecture explores the connections between these two developments through identifying various modes of architectural representations and relating these visual modes to the changing experience of the artists in the material landscape of metamorphoses like Beijing and Shanghai.

Zheng Shengtian
'The Great Economic Retreat,' New Images of Urban China
The paper will discuss Shanghai/Beijing based artist Jiangbao's recent photography series 'The Great Economic Retreat.' The modern landscape he has captured provides a new page of the astonishing and sometimes catastrophic transformation of China's urban life. The political significance of these images may help us to re-examine the fundamental role of contemporary art today in China.


Friday, October 17
4:00 pm - Welcome

Lawrence Rinder
Patricia Berger

Keynote Address

Wu Hung — Contemporary Chinese Art and China's Urban Transformation

Saturday, October 18
9:30 am - Panel 1

Julia F. Andrews — Post-Mao, Post-Modern: The After-Effects of the Cultural Revolution in Art
Kuiyi Shen — The Practice of Ink and Its Dilemma in the Contemporary Art World

10:15 - 10:30 am - Break

Zheng Shengtian — 'The Great Economic Retreat,' New Images of Urban China
Deng Kunyan — Recycling Industrial Space: Art and the New Urbanism in China

Patricia Berger

1:30 pm - Panel 2

Pauline Yao — One City, One Artist: Zheng Guogu in Yangjiang
Hou Hanru — Living with the Urban Fiction
William Schaefer — Poor and Blank: History's Marks and the Photographies of Displacement

Lisa Claypool

3:00 - 3:15 pm - Break

3:15 pm - Panel 3

Wendy Larson — Culture on the Global Stage: Jia Zhangke's The World
Jerome Silbergeld — The New Beijing, Real Beijing, and Jia Zhangke's The World: A Celluloid Ecology
Bérénice Reynaud — Urban Displacement and Subterranean Ruins in Recent Chinese Independent Films

Pheng Cheah



Subject to change

Julia Andrews (The Ohio State University, Department of History of Art)

Patricia Berger (UC Berkeley, Department of History of Art)

Pheng Cheah (UC Berkeley, Department of Rhetoric)

Lisa Claypool (Reed College, Department of Art History and Humanities )

Deng Kunyan (Architect and Urbanist, Shanghai)

Hou Hanru (Director of Exhibitions and Public Programs, San Francisco Art Institute)

Wendy Larson (University of Oregon, Department of East Asian Languages)

Bérénice Reynaud (California Institute of the Arts)
Bérénice Reynaud is the author of Nouvelles Chines, nouveaux cinémas (Paris, 1999) and Hou Hsiao-hsien's "A City of Sadness" (London, 2002). She has written extensively on Chinese cinema and video for publications such as Sight & Sound (UK), The Routledge Encyclopedia of Contemporary Chinese Culture, Film Comment (USA), CinemaScope (Canada), Senses of Cinema (Australia — on-line), Cahiers du cinéma (both the magazine and the publishing company), Le Monde diplomatique, Libération (France), Meteor, Springerin (Austria), Nosferatu (Spain), Storia del Cinema Mondiale (Italy) and Cinemaya, the Asian Film Quarterly (India), among others. She is currently working on a book on the Chinese Martial Arts film.

She has curated series of Chinese video work for the Galerie Nationale du Jeu de Paume (Paris) and the Museum of Modern Art (New York), as well as series on New Chinese Cinema and Video at the UCLA Film & Television Archives (Los Angeles). Since 2003 she has assumed the function of Co-Curator for the Film/Video series at the Roy and Edna Disney/CalArts Theater (REDCAT) in Los Angeles — where she has brought artists such as Yang Fudong, Liu Jiayin and Wu Wenguang. Since 1993 she has been is a correspondent for the San Sebastian International Film Festival (Spain) for US independent and Chinese cinema. And has assumed similar functions for the Viennale (Austria) since 2000. She has also curated series on experimental cinema/video for the Festival d'Automne and the Cinémathèque Française (Paris), the Collective for Living Cinema and Artists Space (New York). For 16 years (1985–2001), she was the US correspondent for the Créteil International Women's Film Festival in Paris.

She has lectured extensively on Chinese cinema and video, documentary and experimental cinema, films by women and film theory in the United States, Canada, China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, France and Austria.

Reynaud teaches film history, theory and criticism in the School of Critical Studies and the School of Film/Video at the California Institute of the Arts.

Lawrence Rinder (Director, Berkeley Art Museum/Pacific Film Archive)

William Schaefer (UC Berkeley, Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures)

Jerome Silbergeld (Princeton University, Department of Art and Archaeology)

Kuiyi Shen (UC San Diego, Department of Visual Arts)
Kuiyi Shen is an art historian and critic whose research focuses on modern and contemporary Chinese art and Sino-Japanese art exchanges in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. He received a BA in fine arts from the Shanghai Normal University and an MA and PhD in art history from the Ohio State University. He is the recipient of many major grants, including the National Endowment for the Arts, Social Science Research Council, and Japan Society for Promotion of Science.

Prior to his 1989 relocation to the United States, Kuiyi Shen served as the director of the art book department at the Shanghai People's Fine Arts Publishing House. Shen taught at Ohio University, State University of New York at Buffalo, Rice University, and University of Oregon before joining the UCSD faculty.

Shen is the author and co-author of many books and exhibition catalogues on modern and contemporary Chinese art, including A Century in Crisis: Tradition and Modernity in the Art of Twentieth Century China (1998); Between the Thunder and the Rain: Chinese Paintings from the Opium War to the Cultural Revolution (2000); Word and Meaning: Six Contemporary Chinese Artists (2000); Chongqing Chilis (2003); Zhou Brothers: Thirty Years of Collaboration (2004); The Elegant Gathering (2006); Chinese Painting on the Eve of the Communist Revolution (2006); and the forthcoming "Arts of Modern China, Literature in Line," and "The Challenge of Modernity: Chinese Painting of the Late Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Centuries."

Shen's essays have been published in Art and China's Revolution (New York, 2008), At the Crossroads of Empires (Stanford, 2007), Turmoil, Representation and Trends: Modern Chinese Painting, 1796-1949 (Kaohsiung Museum of Art, 2007), Visual Culture in Shanghai, 1850-1930 (New Academia Publishing, 2007), Cubism in Asia: Unbounded Dialogues (Paris, 2007, and Tokyo, 2006), Shanshui in Twentieth Century Chinese Art (Shanghai, 2006), Shanghai Modern (Hatje Cantz, 2004), Popular China (Rowman & Littlefield, 2002), Illustrating Asia: Comics, Humor Magazines, and Picture Books (University of Hawaii Press, 2001), Studies on Shanghai School Painting (Shanghai, 2001), A Prospect to the Twenty First Century Visual Arts (Taipei, 1999), Chinese Painting and the Twentieth-century: Creativity in the Aftermath of Tradition (Hangzhou 1997), as well as journals including Twentieth Century China, Modern Chinese Literature and Culture, Inks: Cartoon and Comic Art Studies, Art China (China), Journal of Chinese Fine Arts (China), Yishu (Canada), Tsing Hua Journal of Chinese Studies (Taiwan), Studies on Chinese History (Korea), and Modern Art Studies (Korea).

Shen has worked as a curator and curatorial consultant for projects including Literature in Line (Ohio State University, 1997), A Century in Crisis (Guggenheim Museum SoHo and Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, 1998), Word and Meaning (SUNY Buffalo and Ohio University, 2000-2001), Chongqing Chilis (Ohio University, Wellesley College, Ohio State University, and Miami University, 2003-2004), Landscapes (Shanghai Gallery of Art, 2004), Chinese Painting on the Eve of the Communist Revolution (Cantor Center, Stanford University, 2006), the Third Chengdu Biennale (Chengdu Modern Art Museum, China, 2007), and INK, ART — Nationality, Modernity, and Identity in Contemporary Chinese Art (Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 2010).

Wu Hung (Harriet H. Vanderstappen Distinguished Professor of Art History and East Asian Studies, University of Chicago)

Pauline J. Yao (Independent Curator, Beijing)

Zheng Shengtian (Managing Editor, Yishu: Journal of Contemporary Chinese Art)


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