Visions of Futurity in Contemporary Art from the Sinophone Region

© Foto: Lukas Pürmayr

Since the 2010s, depictions of the future have been an important part of contemporary art from China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and the Chinese-speaking diaspora. In the portrayal of the future, the artworks of numerous artists contain comparable narratives and images, with digital techniques frequently used for execution. These artworks visually and narratively recur to aspects or moments of Chinese history. This dissertation examines the historical references and political entanglements within the works and their positioning in the global art discourse in the context of solo and group exhibitions. Special focus is given to modes of narrativity within the artworks and the exhibitions, as well as different modes of temporality that come to play within the artworks as well as in the exhibition setting.

The growing international interest and reputation of Chinese science fiction literature is a parallel development to the emergence of the body of artworks that chose science fiction narrative modes for their artistic storytelling. The specific interest in history and appeal to traditional visuality constructs multitemporal narration and blurs preconceived “temporal registers” (Assmann 2020), which gives the artworks the potential to broaden the discourse about futurity, the construction of history and linear perception of time. Moreover, the artworks highlight the importance that storytelling and fiction (Wang 2020) have in contemporary China. Here the artworks function as highly volatile vehicles for storytelling within the contemporary exhibitionism (Bal 2021) and the exhibitionary complex (Bennett 1994) and positions them at the intersection of presentation of individual articulation and representation of what Jane Chin Davidson referred to as “Staging Chineseness” (Davidson 2020).