Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Children of Marx and Coca-Cola

Children of Marx and Coca-Cola: Chinese Avant-garde Art and Independent Cinema

Xiaoping Lin
Copyright Date: 2010
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Children of Marx and Coca-Cola
    Book Description:

    Children of Marx and Coca-Colaaffords a deep study of Chinese avant-garde art and independent cinema from the mid-1990s to the beginning of the twenty-first century. Informed by the author's experience in Beijing and New York-global cities with extensive access to an emergent transnational Chinese visual culture-this work situates selected artworks and films in the context of Chinese nationalism and post-socialism and against the background of the capitalist globalization that has so radically affected contemporary China. It juxtaposes and compares artists and independent filmmakers from a number of intertwined perspectives, particularly in their shared avant-garde postures and perceptions.

    Xiaoping Lin provides illuminating close readings of a variety of visual texts and artistic practices, including installation, performance, painting, photography, video, and film. Throughout he sustains a theoretical discussion of representative artworks and films and succeeds in delineating a variegated postsocialist cultural landscape saturated by market forces, confused values, and lost faith. This refreshing approach is due to Lin's ability to tackle both Chinese art and cinema rigorously within a shared discursive space. He, for example, aptly conceptualizes a central thematic concern in both genres as "postsocialist trauma" aggravated by capitalist globalization. By thus focusing exclusively on the two parallel and often intersecting movements or phenomena in the visual arts, his work brings about a fruitful dialogue between the narrow field of traditional art history and visual studies more generally.

    Children of Marx and Coca-Colawill be a major contribution to China studies, art history, film studies, and cultural studies. Multiple audiences-specialists, teachers, and students in these disciplines, as well as general readers with an interest in contemporary Chinese society and culture-will find that this work fulfills an urgent need for sophisticated analysis of China's cultural production as it assumes a key role in capitalist globalization.

    30 illus.

    eISBN: 978-0-8248-3763-1
    Subjects: Art & Art History, Film Studies

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Introduction: Reading Chinese Avant-garde Art and Independent Cinema in Context
    (pp. 1-30)

    This book is a study of Chinese art and cinema in the context of postsocialist China and capitalist globalization. In this book, I draw on my experiences in Beijing and New York, the two “global cities,”¹ where a variety of art exhibitions, film festivals, academic conferences, and museum programs provide access to an emergent “transnational” Chinese visual culture essential to my study.² For this inquiry, I have selected Chinese artists and filmmakers from the mainland and overseas who represent avant-garde art and independent cinema in both national and global contexts.³ The body of artworks and films examined in this book...

  5. PART 1 Re-creating Urban Space in Avant-garde Art

    • CHAPTER 1 Discourse and Displacement: Contemplating Beijing’s Urban Landscape
      (pp. 33-56)

      In July 1998, “Space and Vision: The Impression of Transmuting Daily Lives in Beijing,” an exhibition of five Chinese avant-garde artists curated by Huang Du (who invited me to attend the show), opened for two days at the Contemporary Art Gallery in Beijing, a small, little-known museum that for the past decades has provided artists with a non-governmental space in which to display their work.¹ On the first day about a thousand people came to see the exhibition. In the afternoon of the following day, a China Central Television (CCTV) crew arrived to film the works, but left the gallery...

    • CHAPTER 2 Beijing: Yin Xiuzhen’s The Ruined City
      (pp. 57-71)

      In the 1950s, the Qianmen Gate was preserved as a significant structure along Beijing’s north-south axis.¹ In the summer of 2008, the restoration of a “deteriorated” Qianmen Street² was completed in time to attract Olympic tourists. The Beijing government had poured 9.2 billion yuan into renovation work on Qianmen to revive the former glory of the six-hundred-year-old neighborhood.³ But critics dismissed the redevelopment project as “Beijing’s fabled antiquity,” which, they said, was “laced with old, crudely renovated buildings stripped of the collective memories of its inhabitants.”⁴ As Henry Sanderson observed,

      When Olympic marathon runners pass through Beijing’s historic Qianmen neighborhood...

    • CHAPTER 3 Globalism or Nationalism? Cai Guoqiang, Zhang Huan, and Xu Bing in New York
      (pp. 72-88)

      In spring 2003, photographs of Chinatown taken by Lia Chang after the 9/11 terrorist attacks were on view as part of the exhibition “Recovering Chinatown: The 9/11 Collection,” held at the Museum of Chinese in the Americas in New York City. Lia Chang’s photographic works effectively documented the experience of Chinese New Yorkers during and after the 9/11 tragedy. The attack on the World Trade Center inflicted profound damage on Chinatown’s economy, especially its tourist services, garment shops, and restaurants, and the Asian community in Chinatown has never really recovered. Among the affected Chinese New Yorkers is Zhang Hongtu, an...

  6. PART 2 China’s Lost Youth through the Lens of Independent Cinema

    • CHAPTER 4 New Chinese Cinema of the “Sixth Generation”: A Distant Cry of Forsaken Children
      (pp. 91-114)

      At the 51st Berlin International Film Festival held in February 2001, a Chinese film,Beijing Bicycle, won a Jury Grand Prix of Silver Bear. In a large sense, the story ofBeijing Bicycleis a contemporary Chinese variation on the Italian neorealist classicThe Bicycle Thief. The prizewinning film was written and directed by Wang Xiaoshuai, a young filmmaker of the so-called Sixth Generation or Urban Generation.¹ Years before, his debut workThe Days(Dongchun de rizi, 1993) was acquired by the Museum of Modern Art in New York and was chosen as one of the top 100 films of...

    • CHAPTER 5 Behind Chinese Walls: The Uncanny Power of Matriarchy in Wang Chao’s Anyang Orphan
      (pp. 115-128)

      In recent years, filmmakers of the Sixth Generation have attracted increasing attention from both Chinese and Western film critics and cultural theorists.Anyang Orphan(2001) is a critically acclaimed film directed by Wang Chao, one of the Sixth Generation Chinese filmmakers whose works portray the turbulence of human life under China’s new capitalistic market economy. As Wang Chao stated,Anyang Orphanwas an “auteurist” gaze at people living on the margin of the city,¹ such as unemployed factory workers, gangsters, and prostitutes, who were socially displaced by the country’s rapid economic transformation. A central motif inAnyang Orphanis a...

    • CHAPTER 6 The Imagery of Postsocialist Trauma in Peacock, Shanghai Dreams, and Stolen Life
      (pp. 129-144)

      In early 2005, three Chinese films received top prizes at various international film festivals: Gu Changwei’sPeacock, Wang Xiaoshuai’sShanghai Dreams, and LiShaohong’sStolen Life. All these award-winning films portray a family drama set in the early post-Mao era, or, as it were, at the end of the Cultural Revolution (1966–1976). A central character in the three movies is a young daughter who is alienated from her family, especially her working-class parents. The parents find it difficult to understand their children who have grown up under Deng Xiaoping’s policy of “reform and openness,” which has transformed a “puritan” Maoist...

  7. PART 3 In Quest of Meaning in a Spiritual Void:: Film and Video

    • CHAPTER 7 Jia Zhangke’s Cinematic Trilogy: A Journey across the Ruins of Post-Mao China
      (pp. 147-164)

      By 2000 Jia Zhangke had created three major films of the new Chinese Sixth Generation, includingXiao Shan Going Home(1995),Xiao Wu(1997), andPlatform(2000).¹ In these three works, Jia Zhangke conscientiously explores one man’s journey across a ruinous post-Mao China.² The first shot ofXiao Shan Going Homeis, strangely, a wood block print that depicts a young man facing Mao’s portrait on Tiananmen (the Gate of Heavenly Peace). And in this print the late chairman appears like a ghostly father figure to the bewildered youth. As Mao’s successor Deng Xiaoping himself observed, “It isn’t only his...

    • CHAPTER 8 The Video Works of Yang Fudong: An Ultimate Escape from a Global Nightmare
      (pp. 165-185)

      On a rainy day in mid-October 2004, I flew from New York to London to visit a new exhibition of contemporary art held at Tate Modern. The show was titledTime Zone: Recent Film and Videoand featured ten artists from various countries such as Albania, Belgium, Germany, China, Indonesia, Israel, the Netherlands, and the former Yugoslavia.

      It was a Friday afternoon at Tate, and a few museum visitors roamed around the third-floor gallery where the film and video works were screening in the partitioned dark rooms. As I entered one of these rooms, I found myself watchingLiu Lan...

    • CHAPTER 9 Ning Hao’s Incense: A Curious Tale of Earthly Buddhism
      (pp. 186-204)

      In the summer of 2006,Crazy Stone, a low-budget black comedy directed by Ning Hao, was an enormous success in China’s domestic movie market and “an unlikely mainland hit” that “even brushed aside” Hollywood blockbusters such asSuperman ReturnsandMission: Impossible III.¹ China Daily, the Chinese government’s English-language newspaper, hailedCrazy Stoneas a film that “makes audiences laugh” and “Hollywood cry.”² Ning Hao is a talented young filmmaker who before his triumph ofCrazy Stonewas unknown to a Chinese audience that had been bombarded with Hollywood offerings for a decade. The director’s two previous works,Incense(Xianghuo,...

  8. Postlude: Chinese Artists and Filmmakers at the Beginning of a New Century
    (pp. 205-236)

    Ever since China joined the World Trade Organization in 2001, the country’s rapid economic growth has made many Westerners wonder if China will pose a new challenge or even a threat to Western powers, especially the United States.¹ In the summer of 2005,NewsweekandTime, two reputable American magazines, each published a special report on China, titled “China’s Century” and “China’s New Revolution,” respectively. Fareed Zakaria, editor ofNewsweek International, wrote, “China was big; but very poor. All that is changing. But now the very size and scale that seemed so alluring is beginning to look ominous. And Americans...

  9. Notes
    (pp. 237-286)
  10. Chinese Glossary of Names, Titles, and Terms
    (pp. 287-290)
  11. Filmography
    (pp. 291-292)
  12. Bibliography
    (pp. 293-306)
  13. Index
    (pp. 307-312)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 313-317)