By Paul Gladston
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Additional resources for ’Avant-garde’ Art Groups in China, 1979-1989
Crucially, while official administrative bodies such the Chinese Artists Association gave their public support to the directives handed down at the Third Plenary Session of the XI Central Committee, unlike the period from 1949 to the beginning of the Cultural Revolution, they made no attempt to supplement those directives with concrete administrative programmes of their own. Consequently, while directives issued at the Third Plenary Session of the XI Central Committee can be understood to have opened up space for artists to move beyond the established ideological outlook of the Cultural Revolution, there was no clear indication, from the official bodies responsible for the administration of cultural production within the PRC, of any corresponding initiatives or campaigns to which artists might be expected to contribute in practical terms.
A key example of this theoretical and practical reworking is Hou Hanru փ◮བ’s alignment of the conceptual indeterminacy of deconstructive postmodernism and postcolonialism with the irrationalism of traditional Chinese geomantic divinatory practices associated with Feng shui 亢∈ and the I Ching ᯧ㒣 (The Book of Changes) (Hou 2002: 61–62, 174); a move which seeks to undermine the international dominance of Western(ized) postmodernism and post-colonialism by asserting the historical primacy of Chinese tradition (in a manner not unlike Fu Lei’s valorization of Chinese tradition underlying his assessment of the work of Huang Binhong during the early twentieth century).
Not only had many of the artists associated with 1985 New Wave chosen to leave the PRC in the aftermath of the Tian’anmen killings, but those that had stayed found themselves subject to a pervasive climate of uncertainty with regard to the intentions of the CCP. As a consequence, art produced unofficially within the PRC during the 1990s began to reflect a growing sense of doubt at odds with the underlying optimism of the 1980s. This state of affairs was marked not only by the emergence of the contemporary Chinese art movements, known as Cynical Realism (Wanshi xianshi zhuyi ⥽Ϫ⦄ᅲЏН) and Political Pop, with their respective presentations of disingenuously upbeat and sceptically disengaged views of what was by then an increasingly market-driven society within the PRC, but also, as the curator and art historian Wu Hung Ꮏ吓 has indicated, by a change in the terminology used to refer to unofficial art within the PRC away from the term Zhongguo xiandai yishu Ё⦄ҷ㡎ᴃ (Chinese modern art) to Zhongguo dangdai yishu Ёᔧҷ㡎 ᴃ(Chinese contemporary art) (Wu 2008: 12–16).