ANN: Internat. Symposium "(In)Direct Speech. ‘Chineseness’ in Contemporary Art Discourse and Practice. Art Market, Curatorial Practices and Creative Processes"

Franziska Koch's picture


International Symposium

(In)Direct Speech. ‘Chineseness’ in Contemporary Art Discourse and Practice.
Art Market, Curatorial Practices and Creative Processes

and Launch of the

International Research Network for Modern and Contemporary Chinese Art


Location: Faculty of Fine Arts, University of Lisbon, Lisbon, Portugal

Dates: 16–19 March 2015

Registration: Attendance of the symposium is free of charge and requires an informal registration addressed to the organisers. See programme below.

Addressees and Organisers: Franziska Koch ( and Rui Oliveira Lopes (

Conference Website:  (see abstract/CVs of all speakers there).


Informed by post-colonial and post-1989 perspectives as well as critical area studies and post-modern cultural theories of art and visual culture, scholars no longer look at Chinese art as a visual expression of “Chineseness”, conceived as a long-standing, homogeneous geographic and cultural entity. Instead, they consider the ways in which cultural identity is constructed and the role of particular actors, who continuously claim, contest and propagate its boundaries. Such an analytical stance has emerged as a response to recent positions on Chinese culture that are either charged with (neo-) nationalist assumptions fuelled by the PRC’s role as a rising global power or a result of long-standing Western strategies to essentialise the Chinese “other”. In the name of a “global art history” that is conscious of its epistemological limits, these scholars suggest a critical engagement with modernist, often Eurocentric assumptions that narrowly interpret works of (contemporary) art in terms of “place”, and call for a more nuanced methodological framework that questions the taxonomies and values that have been built into the discipline since its historical beginnings and have been taken as universal. Such a transcultural perspective seems particularly relevant given the increased migration and mobility of Chinese artists since Deng Xiaoping’s Open Door policy and the growing interconnectedness of the art worlds (in-)formed by economic and technological globalization. In particular, such an approach takes into account the continuity of a long-term historical, cross-cultural dialogue, which is often overlooked when speaking about “Chineseness”, but lies at the core of many processes of cultural and artistic naming. This includes, for example, the examination of non-Chinese artists, who have actively responded to what they perceived as specifically “Chinese”, thereby supporting the notion in turn, while themselves working within (very) different institutional, economic, and political power relations than their Chinese colleagues.


The international symposium (In)Direct Speech. ‘Chineseness’ in Contemporary Art Discourse and Practice. Art Market, Curatorial Practices and Creative Processes seeks to critically address constructions of “Chineseness” that are apparent in three often entangled spaces of the art world across the globe: in the art market’s institutions, in exhibition halls, and in the artist’s studio. Art historians, curators, and artists are invited to discuss the “voice(s)” of “Chinese” contemporary art in a global context and examine what kind of “China-images” they project. The participants will engage with cases of “indirect speech”, in which Chinese as well as non-Chinese artists, cite “China” as a motif or address it by explicitly using (pre-modern) techniques associated with Chinese culture, such as ink and rice paper or Chinese characters. They will also address cases of “direct speech” by artists, curators and art dealers, who proclaim cultural and artistic uniqueness, critical attitudes towards the “Westernization” of aesthetic standards, or – on the contrary ‒ try to forge a place for their works in the global art discourse by avoiding cultural distinctions. The symposium thus aims to make visible the historicity of “Chineseness” as discursive and practical construct and to analyse how agents and institutions contribute to its changes during the last three decades.


The symposium includes the launch of the “International Research Network for Modern and Contemporary Chinese Art”, which will create a suitable academic social media platform that ensures easy accessibility, global outreach and a secured space for the sharing of professional information as well as in-group discussions. In particular the network will address the career needs of junior scholars with non-permanent institutional affiliations and a lack of funding to support their often expensive research travels, enabling them to quickly and internationally gather helpful information together with the support of senior researchers. It is planned to be institutionally affiliated to a university – probably Heidelberg University – to ensure a sustainable, non-commercial and democratic administration by chosen representatives of its scholarly members.

Read more about the symposium, its key questions, speakers, and the institutional cooperation at:


Monday, 16th March 2015



Address of Welcome by the organizers

Greeting by the President of the China Observatory


Keynote by Keith Wallace:

“What China?”


Dinner for all registered attendees


Tuesday, 17th March 2015

9h00 – 10h30

Opening remarks by Rui Oliveira Lopes


Chair: Franziska Koch

Rachel Marsden (Birmingham City University):
Curating “Chineseness”: translating China in the 45th Venice Biennale


Jane Chin Davidson (California State University, San Bernardino):
Staging Chineseness: global exhibitions and the avant-garde



Coffee break


11h00 – 12h30

Chair: Nicola Foster

Mi YOU (Academy of Media Arts Cologne):

Is Chineseness too big for China? Chineseness in negotiation in minor practices of Organhaus art space

Petra Pölzl (Freie Universität Berlin):

Marginal(ised) platforms: performance art festivals in China





14h00 – 15h30

Chair: Rui Oliveira Lopes

JIANG Jiehong (School of Art, Birmingham City University):

Off-site: a destiny of Chinese contemporary art?


Peggy WANG (Bowdoin College, Maine)

Temporal perception and historical reference in contemporary Chinese art



Coffee break


16h00 – 16h45

Beccy Kennedy (Manchester Metropolitan University):

Visualising Chinese (and project) borders


Wednesday, 18th March 2015


9h00 – 10h30

Opening remarks by Franziska Koch


Chair: JIANG Jiehong

LI Shiyan (Université Aix-Marseille):
Analysing works of Cai Guoqiang in relation to ancient Chinese concepts


Marie Laureillard (Université Lumière-Lyon 2, Lyon):

About the “Chineseness” of Taiwanese art: considering works of Lian Te-cheng and Hou Chun-ming



Coffee break


11h00 – 12h30

Chair: susan pui san lok

Eva Aggeklint (Stockholm University):
The concept of Frankenstein in translation


LIN Chen-Yu (School of Music, University of Liverpool):

From Open fire to 18 martial arts: questions of Chineseness in Wang Leehom’s “chinked-out” music and the rise of China


12h30 – 14h00



14h00 – 15h30

Chair: Peggy WANG

Elizabeth Parke (University of Toronto):
Women from away: the sinosphere in work of Yuk King Tan and Patty Chang


Nicola Foster (The Open University & University of the Arts London):
Women’s “secret” script, Nushu, as a construction of an alternative “in/visible” “Chineseness” in the work of the contemporary artist Yuenyi Lo


15h30 – 16h00

Coffee break


16h00 – 16:45

Paul Gladston (University of Nottingham):
Somewhere (and nowhere) between modernity and tradition: towards a critique of international and indigenous perspectives on the significance of contemporary Chinese art


Thursday, 19th March 2015


9h00 – 10h30

Chair/s: Franziska Koch and members of the founding committee

Launch of the International Research Network for Modern and Contemporary Chinese Art


10h30 – 11h00

Coffee break


11h00 – 12h30

Chair: Paul Gladston

Artists presentations (20 min. each)


susan pui san lok (UK)

LO Yuen-yi ( Macau / Hong Kong)

José de Guimarães (PORTUGAL)


Concluded by a round table discussion moderated by Paul Gladston (ca. 20-30 min.)