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Animal Body in Mainland China Contemporary Art

PAN Gaojie

The research mainly focuses on art works that treat animal as material or “co-performer” in mainland China. It aims to look into the specific role that the real animal body plays in Chinese contemporary art, and explores how such artworks developed in Chinese art history and the dilemma they face.


Animals appear as a subject in all eras of art history, and in all cultures too. However, in contemporary art context, animal is not merely the subject matter but also serves as material or a ‘co-performer’ for art making. In China, this animal body tendency started from late 1980s. With the background of the material experiment among Chinese avant-garde artists in 1980s, this research starts with cases of animal body works in mainland China contemporary art. It explores how the animal body appeared and faded out in the arena of Chinese contemporary art. Especially at the turn of 21 century, several successful exhibitions represented by “Post-sense Sensibility” evidently reflect a body trend. The thesis involves Chinese and foreign exchange among Chinese artists born in the 60s and the 70s, the active period of underground exhibitions, the impacts of foreign artists like Joseph Beuys and yBas (young British artists), and the game between cultural policy and contemporary art.