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Leverhulme Award

Award Information

Leverhulme International Networks (2016)

Project Period: Oct 2016 - Oct 2018

Principal Investigator: Professor Jiang Jiehong

Project Partners: Professor Oliver Moore (University of Groningen), Professor Michael Hitchcock (Goldsmiths, University of London), Nan Nan (New Century Art Foundation, Beijing), Profess Lv Sheng Zhong & Professor Sui Jianguo (Central Academy of Fine Arts, Beijing), Luise Guest (White Rabbit Collection of Chinese Contemporary Art, Sydney).

Project Facilitator: Hiu Man Chan

Background

Everyday Legend is a major, international research project which aims to better understand the decline in traditional Chinese arts and culture amid the country's rapid economic growth. The project will consider how conventional design and hand-making skills can be best preserved for future generations, as well as the role contemporary artists in China can play to facilitate this. 

This project has been made possible by a grant of nearly £100,000 from the Leverhulme Trust. It is being run in conjunction with the Chinese Studies branch of Leiden University's Institute for Area Studies, and both the Institute of Creative and Cultural Entrepreneurship and the Asia Centre at Goldsmiths, University of London.

Aim of research

30 years of rapid urbanisation in China has meant that very few traditional constructions have survived, including many building and complexes built during the early years of the People’s Republic of China. This has led to the gradual transformation of an ‘internationalised’ style of living in China and numerous production techniques – such as textiles, ceramics, wood and stone carving – are declining or being substituted by batch production.

“Since the 1980s, states Professor Jiang, the pace of globalisation has posed a serious threat to the sustainability of tradition within Chinese arts and culture, as Western architecture, furniture, fashion and products have permeated Chinese cities. Furthermore, urbanisation and tourism has turned Chinese tradition arts and crafts from indigenous to commercial, as items are mass produced by machine for people all around the world. Such popular reactions to these prevailing conditions in China today broadly represent the state of cultural anxiety that this project seeks to investigate and we hope that our findings can translate and reinvent Chinese traditions through interdisciplinary discussions and creative practices.” 

The need for research within this area has emerged from a curatorial research project by Professor Jiang ahead of a major contemporary art exhibition to be opened at Shanghai’s Minsheng Art Museum in November 2016. As a result of background research, Professor Jiang uncovered a wealth of material and exposed the lack of critical debates regarding the subject through a series of in-depth conversation with traditional craftsmen, contemporary artists and scholars.