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TitleNot Yet Farewell: Postsocialist Performance and Visual Art in Urban China
thesisID57
Year2009
AuthorZhuang, Jiayun
UniversityUniversity of California, Los Angeles (UCLA)
Thesis typePh.D
DisciplineTheater and Performance Studies
Number of pages216
AbstractThis dissertation explores, in detail, a variety of postsocialist theater, performance,
and visual art works that re-signify the country's revolutionary and socialist history.
Taking a deep look at the somatic and semiotic practices of performative resignification,
this dissertation examines the pieces that invent new ways to represent how prior sociopolitical
and ideological codes continue to inform the culture of the postsocialist present.
Overflowing with historically and ideologically-laden gestural and visual signs, these
performative practices challenge the previously state-sanctioned ideologies in a crosshistorical
dialogue.

Chapter 1, as the introduction of this study, lays out the conceptual framework for
the dissertation, probing the theoretical and historical ramifications of the postsocialist
performance and visual art in the PRC, as well as engaging recent scholarship on the
subject. Chapter 2 focuses on two independent theater groups in urban China as well as
their major performance productions: (1) the dance-theater group Shenghuo wudao
gongzuoshi (The Living Dance Studio) (2) the dance-theater group Zuhe niao (The Niao
Collective). This chapter explores the ways in which the dance-theater groups
deliberately rework the normalized physical and linguistic signifiers in the socialist
representation system, in order to detach their practices of zhiti xiju (physical theater)
from huaju (spoken drama—the particular form of modern, western-style theater that first
made its appearance at the turn of the 20th century). Chapter 3 explores the new citadel
of contemporary Chinese art—Factory 798 in Beijing, also called 798 Art District and
Dashangzi Art District nowadays. This chapter, by examining a number of performance
pieces enacted in Factory 798 in detail, tackles the question of post-socialist nostalgia,
since a particular socialist history has been repeatedly compressed and resignified within
this specific factory space. Chapter 4 focuses on a large-scale collective art and social
project launched in 2002, entitled the Long March, A Walking Visual Display, which
echoed and responded to the historical Long March of the Communist-led Red Army in
the mid-1930s. In this chapter, I examine a number of performance pieces enacted at the
particular site along the journey: while some resignified the revolutionary signs that have
been central to the Chinese revolutionary narratives or the model work of socialist
realism, others performed certain bodily phenomenon, such as repetition compulsion,
to "act out" the failure of remembering the past occurrences or the resistance of entering
into the ideologically-reconstructed past.
Keywords (en)China;theater;drama;ideology;Long March;body;acting;actor
LanguageEnglish
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