Self-Organised Collectives: 'Amateur' Photography Groups in China, 1977-1988

ANU China Seminar Series


Chen Shuxia


Seminar Room A, China in the World Building (188), Fellows Lane, ANU


Thursday, 15 November, 2018 - 16:00 to 17:30

Chen Shuxia

After the turmoil of the Cultural Revolution, China launched the 'Thought Liberation Movement' and the policy of economic reform and opening-up, on one hand to comfort the intellectuals persecuted during the Cultural Revolution, on the other hand, to rebuild a modernised nation. Under the ensuing relatively relaxed social and political environment, a young generation of artists started exploring new experiments in artistic practice, trying to build alternative discourses, distinct from the official rhetoric. Through the study of five amateur photography groups active in Beijing between 1977 and 1988, this research investigates how different ways of self-organising cohorts provided communal space for these collectives to learn and practice photography, from the private spaces in the late 1970s to emerging public spaces in the 1980s, which resulted in a more plural approach in photographic discourse.

This talk, drawing from Shuxia's PhD research, will focus on the case of the Friday Salon, a home photography workshop active between 1977 and 1980, to demonstrate free photography education and the practice of voluntary knowledge sharing between an older generation of intellectuals and a younger generation of photography enthusiasts immediately after the Cultural Revolution. As one example of self-organisation, this case study emphasizes how such private home study group became alternative yet important format for education and practice while no photographic classes were then available.

About the speaker

Chen Shuxia is a PhD scholar at the Australian Centre on China in the World, Australian National University, with a research focus on Chinese photography and its aesthetic transformation in the 1970s and 1980s. Chen holds an MA in Art History from the University of Sydney; and an MA in Studio Art from Sydney College of the Arts. She is the grantee of the Robert H. N. Ho Family Foundation Greater China Curatorial Residency Programme 2014. Her articles and essays have been published in academic journals and art magazines such as Trans Asia Photography Review, China Story Year Book 2014, Made In China Year Book 2017, Art China, and As an independent curator, she has curated exhibitions in Australia and China, such as 'Make Yourself at Home', 'Shen Jiawei: Brothers and Sisters' and 'A Home for Photography Learning: the Friday Salon, 1977-1980'.

Before the seminar

All attendees are invited to join us in the CIW Tea House from 3.30pm for an informal discussion with the guest speaker before the seminar.
The ANU China Seminar Series is supported by the China Institute and the Australian Centre on China in the World at The Australian National University’s College of Asia & the Pacific.

Updated:  24 April, 2017/Responsible Officer:  Dean, ANU College of Asia & the Pacific/Page Contact:  CAP Web Team