Graduation Year

2016

Date of Thesis Acceptance

Spring 5-11-2016

Major Department or Program

Art History and Visual Culture Studies

Advisor(s)

Lisa Uddin

Abstract

On May 12, 2008 a magnitude 7.9 earthquake struck Sichuan province in southwest China. Chinese contemporary artist, Ai Weiwei responded to the earthquake by creating a series of “earthquake artworks” that he claims are a memorial to the over 5,000 children who died in government constructed school buildings. Implicit in Ai’s identity as a global, contemporary artist is the idea that he is a part of a plural system which acknowledges diverse sources of art production as equally valid. However, the circulation and display of Ai’s artwork depends on the ability of various institutions within the global art world to promote and sell Ai’s work to a Western audience. Ai’s rise to global prominence depended on constructions of Ai as hybrid: both Chinese and Western. This occurs through selective presentations of his biography and interpretations of his artwork that compare him to American and Western artists. As a result, when these artworks are displayed outside of China, they are unable to function as memorial and do far more to preserve the memory of Ai’s presence and activism in Sichuan than they do to commemorate the individual lives lost in the earthquake. I will argue that the construction and reception of these pieces reflects the dilemma of Chinese contemporary artists within the global art world. These so-called memorials are, in fact, superficial, self-referential artworks that commodify and aestheticize the earthquake into a form suitable for Western consumption.

Page Count

58

Subject Headings

Arts audiences -- United States, Earthquake damage -- China, Art and morals, Whitman College 2016 -- Dissertation collection -- Art History and Visual Culture Studies

Permanent URL

http://hdl.handle.net/10349/201608051285

Document Type

Public Accessible Thesis

Terms of Use

If you have questions about permitted uses of this content, please contact the ARMINDA administrator

Share

COinS
 

Rights Statement

Rights Statement

In Copyright. URI: http://rightsstatements.org/vocab/InC/1.0/
This Item is protected by copyright and/or related rights. You are free to use this Item in any way that is permitted by the copyright and related rights legislation that applies to your use. For other uses you need to obtain permission from the rights-holder(s).