An international network of academics and professionals has launched a major research project which aims to better understand the decline of traditional Chinese arts and culture amid the country’s rapid economic growth.

About -- everyday legend

The two-year network project titled Everyday Legend: Reinventing Traditions in Chinese Contemporary Art is being led by Professor Jiang Jiehong at Birmingham City University to question the role of contemporary Chinese art in the debate of the disappearing craft tradition.

In 2007, Professor Jiang Jiehong set up the Centre for Chinese Visual Arts at Birmingham City University, which is the lead institute for the Leverhulme network project Everyday Legend. This Leverhulme Trust funded international network project partners include New Century Art Foundation in Beijing, University of Groningen, China Central Academy of Fine Arts, Goldsmiths, University of London and White Rabbit Collection of Contemporary Chinese Art in Sydney. Across the period of two years, all project partners have been involved in fruitful conversations, field trips, workshops and conferences to engage with the issues identified by the project.

Thirty years of rapid urbanisation in China has meant that very few traditional structures have survived, including many buildings and complexes built during the early years of the People’s Republic. This has led to a gradual transformation towards an internationalised style of living in China, and numerous production techniques such as textiles, ceramics, and wood and stone carving are declining or being substituted by batch production. How can we take this series of issues into an interdisciplinary investigation. This is the mission of Everyday Legend.

Chinese Heritage and Contemporary Art

The need for research within this area has emerged out of a curatorial research project by project Principal Investigator Professor Jiang, for a major contemporary art exhibition titled Everyday Legend that opened at the Minsheng Art Museum on 7th November 2016 in Shanghai. As a result of background research, Professor Jiang has uncovered a wealth of material and exposed the lack of critical debate regarding the subject through a series of in-depth conversations with traditional craftsmen, contemporary artists and scholars.

In addition, Everyday Legend: Reinventing Traditions in Chinese Contemporary Art takes an interdisciplinary approach to the subject beyond the fields of arts and crafts, and will be extended to cross-disciplinary perspectives of anthropology, socio-politics, cultural policy and tourism. Two contemporary art exhibitions have been curated so far, specifically for the project as a practice-led research. Other project events include workshops conducted in Shanghai, Datong, Groningen, London, a symposia in Beijing, and finally an international conference in Birmingham, all hosted at the project’s partner institutions.

All discussion forums were also informed by research trips as well as meetings with contemporary artists in Jingdezhen, Suzhou and Shanghai, Shanxi Province, Beijing, Venice as well as traditional crafts practitioners across China.