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Cultura International Journal of Philosophy of Culture and Axiology

Volume 18, Issue 2, 2021

Siyu Chen
Pages 7-25

A Pilgrimage to Authenticity—A Study of China’s Van Goghs

This study offers a close reading of China’s Van Goghs, a documentary that tells the personal story of Zhao Xiaoyong, a painter-worker making his living by replicating masterpieces in a Chinese art village. Taking the cinematic representation of Zhao’s pilgrimage as a starting point, this study explores how the meaning of authenticity is negotiated through the interplay between aesthetic value and market value in the global flow of cultural products. Through a cross-disciplinary exchange between film, tourism, urban studies and creative labor studies, this study investigates the on-screen portrayal of places, people and power relations as a means to investigate the spatial, social and political implications of Zhao’s journey. Situating the protagonist’s quest for authenticity in Shenzhen’s transition from a labor-intensive economy to a knowledge-based economy, this study sheds light on the intersection between identity, mobility, and creativity at the time of capitalization, urbanization and globalization.