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Title: Reconstructing cultural memory through landscape photography in China, 2000–2010
Authors: Liu, Yajing
Keywords: DRNTU::Visual arts and music::Photography
Issue Date: 2019
Source: Liu, Y. (2019). Reconstructing cultural memory through landscape photography in China, 2000–2010. Doctoral thesis, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore.
Abstract: The sociocultural climate in the first decade of 21st-century China has allowed for the emergent popularity of documentary and memorial art projects. Many Chinese photographers have created artworks addressing a social reality and questioning its problems. Some have examined issues of individual and collective memory, while others have conducted autobiographical explorations and reflected on historical sites. However, when considering the problems raised in contemporary society, such as the crisis of tradition and the development of new media, memory would be better understood within the overarching context of cultural memory, which I challenge in this dissertation. In this dissertation, the central research question is how cultural memory has been shaped by the transformation of landscapes during China’s rapid development and then reconstructed through the lens of contemporary photography from 2000 and 2010. I questioned different aspects of cultural memory in photography and investigated artistic approaches designed to create a space for the interplay of past, present, and future. To do so, I analyzed the works of Qu Yan, Yao Lu, and Chen Nong in parallel to my own work. The artists were selected following a set of criteria, most importantly, based on the concept, characteristics, and narrative forms of cultural memory that borrow from pioneer studies such as those done by Jan Assmann. After in-person interviews with each artist and collection of written and visual documents, I investigated their similarities and differences in the understanding of cultural memory and artistic methods within the sociocultural context of works, thoughts, experiences of places, and photographic methods. The research outcome of this study is supplemented by my art projects 身份证明, Identification Card (2015) and 无言处, Speaking the Unspeakable (2017), in which I examined research questions of this study through my investigation of seaweed houses in China. My art practice played a key role in conducting and achieving this research due to two reasons: 1) scholars often have limited or no access to the creative processes involved in producing artworks; 2) the strategy of incorporating the concept of cultural memory to guide photographic creation had not been studied in earlier works. In the practical component, I reflected on the theories of cultural memory that have been overlooked by current artists. Most importantly, the experimentation in and development of this practical investigation resulted in a promising method that sheds light on spatial experience and the alternative hand-coloring process, where practice informs theory, and vice versa. By reflecting across the works of the four photographers, including my own, this study revealed that the photographic narration of cultural memory should be regarded as a mnemonic performance relating individuals to others, and to a larger cultural framework in the past, and to the present in ways that question the crisis of culture, history, belief, and power. Regarding the artistic approaches in the reconstruction of memory, this dissertation demonstrated that spatial experience matters in disclosing social realities, and the hand-coloring of photography produces an effect that helps to activate memory. Therefore, this study re-examines landscape and/or memory themed photographic works in China between 2000-2010, recalibrates our understanding of the term cultural memory in photography, and expands creative forms, topics, and themes of memory in the context of China.
DOI: 10.32657/10220/48441
Fulltext Permission: open
Fulltext Availability: With Fulltext
Appears in Collections:ADM Theses

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