Author:Di Wang (University of Oxford )
Paper short abstract:
This paper examines how modern Chinese art and visual culture re-materialized European nude images in order to encapsulate the violence that the modern Chinese subject has to undergo whenever their identity and physical integrity is under negotiation, and the agency they therefore develop.
Paper long abstract:
This paper examines the material configuration and surface tension of the nude body images in modern China's art and visual culture from 1919 to 1949. This era witnessed a kind of visual information revolution, marked by aesthetic encounters with globally circulated photographs of European masterpieces of art. The 'agile bodies' became visually-generated tropes of thought entered into a dialogue with the traditionally dominant Chinese literary and verbal metaphors of thought. This paper establishes the figure of the naked body, 'digitally reproduced' and 're-surfaced' from European sources, as the quintessential site of transmission and transmutation that encapsulates the violence that the modern Chinese subject has to undergo and the agency they therefore develop, whenever their identity and physical integrity is under negotiation. It revisits familiar artists such as Li Hua (1907-1994), while excavating a number of less discussed figures such as Wan Laiming(1900-1997), China's first animator. It argues that the material re-configuration of the nude images, evolved from a metonymy of the psychosexual or physically threatened body to that of technologized and Marxist revolutionary body. The naked body eventually became an effective visual-tactile register, the insipient Marxist prototype, a crucial site of thinking, a symbol of potent labor that joined the global imaginary of early twentieth century political ideology, and a precursor of contemporary Chinese re-materialization of Western nude images. Ultimately the figure of nude sheds new light on the development of modern Chinese art, while also contributing a crucial piece to the broader mosaic of modern body images' global history.
Agile Objects: The Art and Anthropology of Re-materialization