Inscribing women onto bodies: an encounter with performance, photography and video art from Beijing and Shanghai 1999-2016

Pittwood, Linda Jean (2019) Inscribing women onto bodies: an encounter with performance, photography and video art from Beijing and Shanghai 1999-2016. PhD thesis, University of Nottingham.

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Since the turn of the millennium, many contemporary Chinese artists have used their own bodies or actors’ bodies in their performance, photography and video art. These artworks become nodes in the communication of meaning about bodies and gendered categories. This project focuses on how selected objects of contemporary Chinese art represent ‘women.’ The category ‘women’ is understood in this project as not a socially constructed gender or essential sex, but as a role (or roles), practices and attributes linked to gender and sex identity, which can be inscribed onto bodies, including represented bodies. Scholarship at the intersection of contemporary Chinese art and gender has tended to focus on patterns emerging in the outputs and practices of exclusively female-identifying artists. By comparing the outputs of female-identifying and male-identifying artists, this thesis moves forward the debate relating to gendered authorship in international contemporary art and localized contemporary art discourse.

Artworks by seven leading contemporary Chinese artists are re-assessed, or given scholarly attention for the first time. The framework of this thesis combines two analytical categories: Michel Foucault’s ‘biopower’ and turn of the 20th-century anarcho-feminist He-Yin Zhen’s ‘nannü.’ Data for this project was collected and has been analysed using an approach of ‘the encounter.’ This comprised multi-sensory, emotional, entangled and embodied singular engagements with artworks, artists, archival materials, studios and cities.

This thesis finds in the discourse a complex, leaky, and fragmentary representation of ‘woman’ that exists in constant negotiation with an ‘ideal,’ ‘consumed and consuming,’ highly restricted, sometimes subjugated feminized body. The two ‘women’ are not necessarily exclusively represented by either female or male-identifying artists. However, the female-identifying artists are ‘speaking a truth’ of gendered experience through their representations of ‘women.’ The female-identifying artists do not necessarily disrupt the binary genders, but they communicate the complexity of the attributes inscribed onto ‘women.’ The artists both acquiesce to and critique the circulating powers that contribute to inscribing ‘women’ onto bodies.

Item Type: Thesis (University of Nottingham only) (PhD)
Supervisors: Bao, Hongwei
Jiang, Jiehong
Gladston, Paul
Keywords: Women, Bodies, Contemporary art, PRC, Encounter, Biopower
Subjects: N Fine Arts > N Visual arts (General). For photography, see TR
Faculties/Schools: UK Campuses > Faculty of Arts > School of Cultures, Languages and Area Studies
Item ID: 56714
Depositing User: Pittwood, Linda
Date Deposited: 15 Aug 2019 14:43
Last Modified: 07 May 2020 10:30

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