Met exhibit Acknowledges Contemporary Chinese Art

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One thought on “Met exhibit Acknowledges Contemporary Chinese Art

  1. The article’s focus is on the modern Chinese exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum. The subject matter and the deviation from the typical representation of Chinese or even Asian art in general is a cause for shock; shock at our own expectations of what Asian art is or should be. Stereotypically, we vie for ancient pottery, calligraphy and traditional paintings of royalty and country landscapes, all of which we associated with Asian art. The article’s use “shock” when describing the effect the exhibit has, in an established museum that once accentuated the tradition art, serves to demonstrate the jolt that is received just by the theme of the pieces being seemingly out of place but also, shock from the realization that even in this socially-forward society that we boast, we still subscribe to this concept that ethnic art is only the traditional art of that region. This notion is not new to any medium that is culturally based. Such was even evident in the Inuit film, Nanook of the North, where the filmmaker staged multiple scenes to express life before western contact. The exhibit itself makes a bridge between the expectations of the traditional art forms and the new modern take, through their use of calligraphy. The article also mentions the infamous “Book from the Sky” by the artist Xu Bing. His use of English words that were scrunched together to look like Chinese characters speaks to modern American youth culture, such is seen in popular tattoos where among the top 10 common tattoos is Chinese calligraphy. This use of Chinese characters in American body art is criticized for being incorrectly written, on people who cannot read the language and often times backwards. The “Book from the Sky” is in a completely invented language that only marginally resembles Chinese but isn’t. This form of representation can be interpreted as how Western appropriated forms of Chinese art and in this way, the exhibit reclaims their cultural representation.

    -Nicolette Trevenen

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