China and Inner Asia
Organized Panel Session
Since the 1990s, the practice of public art worldwide has gone through significant transformation from merely installing sculptures as objects for aesthetic appreciation in parks and other public spaces in the cities to a wide range of socially engaged art practices. These practices often involve creative ways to engage with the specific sites and the public in both urban and rural areas as well as to solicit the participation of professionals, community members, and ordinary citizens for alternative or critical social, cultural, and political discourses. Along the way, existing public spaces are often repurposed and new forms of public spaces invented through the collective endeavors of artists and various local stakeholders. This panel explores the formation and development of bottom-up public spaces in contemporary China and Japan through the lens of contemporary public art, which naturally has distinctive manifestations in different locations across the region given their varying sociopolitical, geo-historical, and economic conditions. Cases presented by panelists include small-scale public gardens designed for historic neighborhood preservation in Beijing’s hutongs, a mutual-aid society for migrant population in Shanghai’s working-class neighborhood, creative practices and performances of a number of Japanese artists who intend to intervene in public spaces politically, and a mural project in a Chinese rural village. Combining historical investigations and empirical analyses of various community-engaged practices from artists, neighborhood activists, and ordinary citizens, the panel hopes to illuminate the interrelations between the growing field of public art and the charged domain known as pubic space in the region.