SOAS University of London

Brunei Gallery, SOAS University of London

The Political Body - Posters from the People's Republic of China in the 1960s and 1970s


Date: 15 April 2004Time: 10:00 AM

Finishes: 25 June 2004Time: 5:00 PM

Venue: Brunei Gallery Room: Brunei Gallery Exhibition Rooms

Type of Event: Exhibition

The Political Body is an exhibition featuring selected posters reproduced from the University of Westminster Chinese Poster Collection, an outstanding collection of posters from the People's Republic of China. The exhibition aims to reveal the relationship between representations of the individual human body and the body politik during the 1960s and 1970s. The body is shown in various ways: inflated militant masculine bodies; teenage bodies offering their lives for revolution; children's bodies to signify modernity and progress; female bodies of technological and economic advancement. The exhibition shows how the body is portrayed at different political moments through a political imaginary which links idealised human figures to political campaigns from high Maoist ideology to the beginning of economic and cultural reform. It shows the transition from purely political representation in which images of everyday life are absent, to a broader depiction which incorporates a more expansive vision of political life, acknowledging aspects of social and cultural behaviour as contributing to the political vision of China.

At the beginning of the Cultural Revolution strident, graphic images were produced of pure political rhetoric translated into visual personifications of masculine and violent aggression, involved in exterminating the class enemy from within the party and Western imperialists or Russian revisionists outside of China. Later, these give way to a more discursive yet politically contained body, which depart from the pure graphic red, black and white images to a more everyday vision of revolutionary participation.

The exhibition will be accompanied by an illustrated catalogue, which includes a preface by Professor Craig Clunas and two scholarly essays addressing themes in the exhibition. The catalogue is edited by Dr Katie Hill, curator of the exhibition and research fellow in contemporary Chinese visual culture at the Centre for the Study of Democracy, University of Westminster.

A programme of talks from April to June 2004 and a seminar on 5th May from 19:00-21:00 in the Brunei Gallery café were held to complement the exhibition at SOAS and the Photographer's Gallery including a discussion: 'The political body and contemporary Chinese art', with London-based artists JJ Xi and Cai Yuan, on the impact of Chinese history and politics on contemporary art practice, held at SOAS by the Centre for the Study of Democracy, in association with the Brunei Gallery and The Photographer's Gallery.

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Sponsor: AHRC, EMMA Festival