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Thursday, March 22, 2007

It’s Different in China

posted by on March 22 at 13:37 PM

I was thinking about political art (specifically Rachel Corrie) and arts funding (specifically, whether publicly subsidizing artmakers is always and everywhere a good idea) when I came across this quote in this article about dance in China:

“The idea of arts as propaganda no longer prevails,” Willy Tsao, who runs three dance companies in China, wrote in an e-mail message. “The government sees that art serves more the purpose of entertaining the public than of education, thus wants the art groups to get more support from the audience through box office and commercial sponsorship. I see that this is a natural transition when the Chinese government is adjusting its policies, shifting from a totalitarian state to a freer society. To me, this is a period of true test; only those who are truly devoted will stay away from the ‘entertainment trap.’

When’s the last time you heard an artist say that less government funding was liberating?

Or that the urge to make politically persuasive art is, at its root, the urge to propagandize?

Or (and, this is my favorite, in this age—and town—of “socially-conscious” mission statements and art-as-vegetables condescension) imply that the entertainment vs. edification dichotomy is false? That propagandizing is bullshit, that entertainment is a “trap,” and we should be thinking in other directions?

Now please enjoy this photo by Chinese artist Wang Ningde:

3 copy.jpg

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"Or that the urge to make politically persuasive art is, at its root, the urge to propagandize?"

i think propaganda only has negative connotations in certain contexts (most of the u.s. for example). etymologically it is quite tame.

Posted by kt | March 22, 2007 2:30 PM

A gajillion years ago, back in the seventies right after Nixon "opened China", there was a documentary on TV that featured Shirley MacLaine wandering around with her Maoist minder and admiring all the wonderful works of man there. At one point, they were in an "art studio" where the "artists" were all hard at work turning out thousands of identical cat statuettes. Shirley thought it was pretty marvelous to see so many people creating art, and it's pretty hard to argue with that.

Posted by Fnarf | March 22, 2007 3:20 PM

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