The Art of the Unsayable in Contemporary China

2018-19 School of Chinese Hon-yin and Suet-fong Chan Professorship Endowment Lecture Series

The Art of the Unsayable in Contemporary China

Professor Margaret Hilenbrand
University of Oxford

Time: 4:30 p.m. – 6:00 p.m. Tuesday 20 November 2018
Venue: Room 730, Run Run Shaw Tower, Centennial Campus, The University of Hong Kong
Language: English

In the early years of this century, Chinese artist Zhang Dali carried out an extended archival project entitled A Second History (Di’er lishi, 2003-6). In this work, Zhang curated a series of paired images, one original, the other manipulated, to show how the Chinese Communist Party frequently doctored the photographic record of the Revolution in state photo labs. The photographs range from official portraits of Mao Zedong to images of model soldier Lei Feng to snapshots of ordinary citizens as they experienced the revolution. In this talk, I discuss what Zhang’s work tells us about practices of secrecy in China, and about how the pressures of ‘knowing what not to know’ have structured the processing of the nation’s twentieth-century past.

Margaret Hillenbrand is Associate Professor of Modern Chinese Literature and Culture at the University of Oxford.