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SFU David Lam Centre and Department of Humanities host virtual conference on Art and Modernism in Socialist China

October 26, 2020
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by Christine Lyons

This week, on October 30 and 31, 2020, SFU’s David Lam Centre and the SFU Department of Humanities are hosting the virtual conference, “Global Art Exchange and Modernism in Socialist China 1949-1979."

The conference was originally planned to take place in-person in Vancouver with eight visiting scholars; organizer and SFU Humanities professor, Dr. Shuyu Kong, says that the pandemic forced them to transition to an online format, and they were able to attract more scholars from around the world. 

All told, fourteen esteemed scholars from institutions in Australia, China, Canada, Germany, and the United States will be giving lectures during the two-dayworkshop. Among them is a diverse mix of emerging scholars and seasoned art curators and academics including the now Vancouver-based Shengtian Zheng, artist, curator, as well as co-organizer of the conference

Zheng, a professor of oil painting at China Academy of Art, immigrated to Canada from China in 1990 and has organized and curated numerous exhibitions worldwide, including “Jiangnan:  Modern and Contemporary Chinese Art” (Vancouver), “Shanghai Modern” (Munich), the 2004 Shanghai Biennale,  “Art and China’s Revolution” (New York)and recently, “Winds from Fusang,” an exhibition on the influence of Mexican mural art on Chinese Artists which toured US and Mexico. Zheng is also the Managing Editor of Yishu: Journal of Contemporary Chinese Art since 2001. 

According the conference website, this event is the most recent of a series, “Art and Modernism in Socialist China,” which is an international cooperative research and publication project launched in 2017 at Taikang Space, Beijing. The focus of the workshop is “on global exchanges among left-wing artists and their impacts on Chinese art during the most rigid period of Socialist China. From artistic exchanges with Latin America to the Romanian school in Chinese art education; from discreet international exhibitions in China to underground artist groups during the Cultural Revolution.” 

As such, panelists at the workshops this week will be presenting a complex view of contemporary Chinese art history, says Dr. Kong.

"Despite that we know this was a period of great isolation, or ‘bleak times’ as us researchers in the period call it, this research shows how there was also great human agency and a variety of exchanges of literature, art and culture, sometimes discreet and underground.”

Kong says there’s also a contemporary relevance: “Today, because of the pandemic, so many people around the world are experiencing isolation and a feeling of failure to connect to each other. But just like the isolation experienced as a result of the Chinese Cultural Revolution, longing for community and exchange persists and people find a way to connect, create and share art and ideas."

 With nearly 200 participants registered already, the panels and workshops are sure to make for an engaging and stimulating experience. Registration is free to all and open until October 29, 2020.

Register now: 

Session One on October 30, 2020.

Session Two on October 31, 2020