Inhuman flow: Censorship and art in the two Chinas

“Well, Dorothy, you’re not in Kansas anymore!” Luise Guest reminds herself in Half the Sky, her book on Chinese women artists. She might well be writing about Australia’s very current dilemma of being forced to rethink its place in the world as China comes to dominate the economy and politics of East Asia. While politicians tread lightly around Chinese influence and the US alliance, certain quarters including the Australian media have been near hysterical about the decline of the Anglosphere, and the rise of a foreign power whose language and values are often at odds with their own. In the middle of this are the artists who work between China and Australia, who may as well be travelling between planets as between countries and cultures. For while these artists have, for the most part, adopted the liberal ideas of the contemporary artworld, in China they remain at risk of being censored and imprisoned. They cannot play out the fantasy of freedom and social mobility that Western artists entertain without putting themselves at significant risk.

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