Volume 12, Issue 1/2, 2009
Art, Praxis, and Social Transformation
The Impossible Bodies
Gender and Radical Performances in Contemporary China
This paper attempts to engage with theoretical discourses to address these intersections of gender, body, and space in the forefront of contemporary Chinese visual artists’ radical performances. From Cui Xiuwen’s scandalous video installation Lady’s of the female bathroom in Tianshang Renjian Hotel to Ma Liuming’s iconic androgynous walk on the Great Wall, contemporary Chinese visual/performance artists have challenged the limits and borders of body as art in radically experimental ways. Feminist art has been liberated from female painting in the post-socialist era, and gender hierarchy and norms have been more profoundly critiqued in these performative events. Pressed by the post-socialist political conditions, market economy, the influence of western art in the era of late capitalism, and the Confucian-Taoist tradition, the Chinese artists have embarked on an experimental journey, attempting to articulate a newness of their complicated lived experiences and to call for social and political transformations.