The New Collectivism: Socially Engaged Art Practice in Contemporary China
Two contemporary Chinese artist collectives, Long March Project (LMP, formed in 1999) and Polit Sheer Form Office (PSFO, founded in 2005) posit themselves in both the contemporary Chinese and international art scene, as conducting something akin to "socially engaged art practice." This thesis attempts to read their practices as emanating from the artists' political and social experiences and critically observes how explanatory frames transfer between cultures. Through a wide range of research methods, including literature reviews, interviews with artists and field research, this thesis examines the evolution of interests, practices and terminologies as collective members grew up at the tail end of the Cultural Revolution, were educated locally and studied internationally, in England and Germany, being exposed to artistic responses to end-of-century political events there. It shows how members professionally intersected with national and international organizations and politics, working as artists, writers, critics and gallery administrators. It tracks them and their work as they thus gained standing individually, joined forces and then collaborated, all through periods of further significant transitions in Chinese society. In conclusion, a critical evaluation discusses how both groups' collective practices are brokered and present themselves, in Chinese and international, cultural and political contexts.