Provocations: Avant-Garde Art in China in the 1980s

Cover image: Plate 18: Zhang Peili X? Series: No. 4 1987 Oil on Canvas; 31 1/2 x 39 3/8 in. (80 x 100 cm); private collection

An exhibition curated by Bingqing Wei and Minerva Inwald

Plate 18: Zhang Peili X? Series, 1986. Oil on Canvas; 31 1/2 x 39 3/8 in. (80 x 100 cm); private collection From Inside/out : new Chinese art / edited by Gao Minglu ; with essays by Norman Bryson ... [et al.].

Where: Exhibition Space, Level 2, Fisher Library

The 1980s was a period of dramatic political, cultural, and economic change in the People’s Republic of China. During the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution (1966-1976), socialist ideology penetrated every facet of China’s social and cultural realms. After the Cultural Revolution concluded, the Chinese Communist Party shifted towards a policy of “opening and reform.” China’s cultural authorities loosened their control over the artistic sphere, ushering in a period of discussion, debate, and artistic experimentation. For thirty years, official cultural policy had demanded that artistic production “serve the masses” and “serve politics.” In the liberal atmosphere of the mid-1980s, a new generation of path-breaking artists emerged across China, forming “avant-garde” groups collectively known as the ’85 New Wave movement. Concerned with the future of China’s artistic culture, ’85 New Wave artists critically engaged with Western artistic and philosophical concepts and experimented with artistic form, expanding and diversifying the artistic field. Supported by a coterie of art critics, theorists, and curators, these avant-garde artists held provocative exhibitions and published iconoclastic manifestoes. In 1989, the government’s violent crackdown on student protestors brought a decisive end to this period of avant-garde exploration, extinguishing the optimistic spirit of avant-gardism that characterised the 1980s.

This exhibition introduces materials relating to China’s avant-garde held in University of Sydney library collections, including the East Asian Collection and the Schaeffer Fine Arts Library. Focusing on important Chinese fine art periodicals donated to the University of Sydney by Professor John Clark, this exhibition explores the artworks, exhibitions, and ideas that animated the Chinese art world of the 1980s. Supplementing these primary sources with important art historical texts, this exhibition seeks to demonstrate how materials in University of Sydney library collections can be used to explore this dynamic period of art history.

 

Exhibition: Music in and from Chinese-Speaking Communities

Photo by Dr Catherine Ingram

The Conservatorium Library will showcase Dr Catherine Ingram’s research in the upcoming exhibition Music in and from Chinese-Speaking Communities: New Research at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music.

When: 14 August-13 October

Where: Conservatorium Library glass cases

The exhibition encompasses the cultural connections between Australia and Chinese-speaking communities and their descendants of research engagement with music in and from Chinese-speaking communities conducted by staff and students at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music. The exhibition builds on the centuries-old cultural connections between Australia and Chinese-speaking communities and their descendants, presenting new research relating to music in and from Chinese-speaking communities conducted by staff and students at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music

In particular, it will feature Chinese musical instruments and ensemble,  exploring areas of learning, teaching and performance of these instruments and groups in China and Australia. Other recent projects included in the exhibit are studies of China’s incredible ‘piano craze’, the significance of music in spectacular new Buddhist rituals in Taiwan, and the critically under-documented music of the Kam (or Dong) minority people in southwest China.

Launch event

You are invited to attend the launch on 23 August at 3.30pm, which will include light refreshments and short solo performances featuring Chinese instruments.

Exhibition: Learning from Country

feature image for Learning from Country exhibition

15 May–31 July 2017

Fisher Library F03; Level 2, Exhibition Space, University of Sydney

Learning from Country from ‘The Papunya School Book of Country and History’ to ‘Australians All’

Learning from Country is an exhibition of original artwork and materials showcasing the journey behind a series of multi-award-winning books produced by Nadia Wheatley and Ken Searle.

Published over the course of a decade by independent Australian publisher, Allen & Unwin, these innovative books celebrate a way of learning that puts Country at the centre.

This exhibition showcases the journey behind the production of these books — a journey that began when Nadia Wheatley and Ken Searle worked as consultants at the school at Papunya (Northern Territory), and were introduced to the Indigenous principle of Learning from Country that is at the core of the Papunya School Book of Country and History and the picture book memoir When I was Little, Like You, by Papunya Elder Mary Malbunka. In Walking with the Seasons in Kakadu the same principle is explored in a different Aboriginal country.

Later work that Nadia and Ken have done with students in Sydney shows that this way of learning is just as effective when the ‘country’ is the city and students’ families come from homelands scattered across the world. This was exemplified in Going Bush, in which art and writing by culturally diverse urban children is showcased.

In Playground, over a hundred Aboriginal Elders and young people from across the continent pass on their wisdom, while in Australians All Nadia and Ken present stories of young people growing up in our nation, from the Ice Age to the Apology.

While educationalists will be inspired by this exhibition to try out this holistic model for themselves, the display of text and original artwork (in draft and final form) will fascinate anyone who has ever wondered how words and images get onto the page of a picture book.

Finally, of course, Learning from Country will delight its core audience: the young Australians to whom these beautiful books belong.

Additional program

In Conversation:

LEARNING FROM COUNTRY: EDUCATION FROM COUNTRY

Thursday 25 May | 6–7:30pm

Nadia Wheatley and Ken Searle will discuss an inspirational way of learning in conversation with Professor Robyn Ewing AM, Sydney School of Education and Social Work.

Complimentary but booking is essential – to register, please go to: Education from Country event booking page

 

LEARNING FROM COUNTRY: THE ART OF THE BOOK

Wednesday 7 June | 6–7:30pm

Nadia Wheatley and Ken Searle in conversation with their Allen & Unwin publisher, Erica Wagner, discussing how books are made. 

Complimentary but booking is essential –  to register, please go to The Art of the Book event booking page 

 

Learning from Country – guided walks

Nadia Wheatley and ken Searle will guide you through the exhibition.

Guided Walk 1: Tuesday 23 May | 5–6pm 

Guided Walk 2: Saturday 3 June | 3–4pm

Guided Walk 3: Thursday 15 June | 5–6pm booked out

Guided Walk 4: Thursday 22 June | 5–6pm

Places are limited, please click on your preferred date to register.

 

Books showcased in this exhibition:

* Papunya School Book of Country and History, by staff and students Papunya School,

in association with Nadia Wheatley and Ken Searle

* When I was Little, Like You, by Mary Malbunka

* Walking with the Seasons in Kakadu, by Diane Lucas and Ken Searle

* Going Bush, by Nadia Wheatley and Ken Searle, in association with students from inner-Sydney schools

* Playground — Stories from Country and from Inside the Heart, compiled by Nadia Wheatley and illustrated by Ken Searle. Indigenous consultant Dr Jackie Huggins

* Australians All, Growing Up in Australia from the Ice Age to the Apology, by Nadia Wheatley and Ken Searle

 

Back to the future with O-Week

Part of the cover showing a scolar in graduation gown and hat painting the word Welkum on a building

Where: Fisher Library (level 3) and at the SciTech Library Exhibition Space

When: 22 February – 12 March, 2017

Orientation Week at the University of Sydney started in 1946. Staff at Rare Books & Special Collections dug into their resources to investigate the evolution of O-Week at Sydney Uni:

There were clubs and societies, social issues and lots of politics, from the conscientious to the cool to the kooky. The message was clear – embrace all of life during your time at Uni.

Check out our full program during O-Week.

Brain and Mind: 400 years of mental health research

Prinzhorn, Hans (c1926). Bildnerei der Gefangenen : Studie zur bildnerischen Gestaltung Ungeübter. Berlin : A. Juncker.

The exhibition uses the University of Sydney’s Rare Books & Special Collections to take us from the beliefs of antiquity in the ability of the liver to cause depression to the most recent neuroimaging and neuropathological understandings of how the brain might bring about our thoughts and feelings.

When: 5 December 2016-30 April 2017

Where: Fisher Library F03, Exhibition Space Level 2

Mental illness is a scourge that has always affected humanity, however our understanding of its origins and even more how to treat it has lagged. The exhibition examines the history of sometimes desperate treatments used to help people with a mental illness and our often shameful behaviour towards this vulnerable group in our society. Understanding mental health requires a detailed knowledge of neuroscience anchored in a broader psycho-social framework. Without this the power of physical treatments and the effectiveness of psychological approaches will be diminished. The exhibition illustrates the battle of ideas that have given us this knowledge.

 

Exhibition Team

Head curator: Associate Professor Anthony Harris, Discipline of Psychiatry & the Brain Dynamics Centre, Westmead Institute for Medical Research

Guest curators: Doctor Richard White, Honorary Associate, Psychiatry, Central Clinical School, Associate Professor Ivan Crozier, ARC Future Fellow, Department of History

Library curators: Emily Kang, Rare Books & Special Collections Liaison Librarian – East Asian Collection; Bernadette Carr, Academic Liaison Librarian – Medical Program; Arian Grant, Graduate Librarian, Medicine, Dentistry, Nursing, Pharmacy, Health Sciences

The Weirdest of the Weird – Exhibition and movies

Skateman in Action

Rare Books and Special Collections staff have trawled the comic universes to present you with The Weirdest of the Weird – a selection of the most puzzling, convoluted, underwhelming, and bizarre comic heroes of all time. Meet Ragman, Infectious Lass, Skateman, Snowflame, and a host of intriguing others in our latest exhibition. Skateman in Action

Rest assured, with your brains and the Library’s science fiction collection, we’ve got a kazillion themes to base your thesis on! But be warned, with over 1,500 comic titles from the 1930s to the 1980s you may be shocked at how many super heroes it takes to protect the cosmos…

Visit The Weirdest of the Weird exhibition at:

Level 3 main corridor, Fisher Library

Exhibition space, SciTech Library

 

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