Culture went ‘viral’ in the face of crisis and has rapidly transformed the way audiences experience museums: from virtual tours, unique campaigns and series on social media to engagement in real-time with live streams. Attempts to make cultural objects come to ‘life’ and/or ‘talk’ were most apparent during the time of enforced closure of Chinese museums after Wuhan was locked down. During which, the scripts for objects were sprinkled with figments of the China dream. The journey of this talk begins with the bronze mirror, an object that has played a significant role in reflecting the ‘face’ of the Chinese, both literally and symbolically for thousands of years. In the course of decoding the bronze mirror, past and present coincide amid the conceptual backdrop of ‘all under heaven’. Here the mirror is seized upon as a moral trope for not only its ability to reflect but also how it actively sheds light in and illuminates the China dream. The story continues, presenting COVID-19 and the World Wide Web as an excellent stage for China to nurture national pride for a homebound citizenry by making collections and exhibitions digitally accessible.
These digital efforts help to create awareness of China’s national collections, including galvanising brand China, especially with the younger populace. While these narratives are aimed at building national cohesion in a domestic space for a domestic audience, understanding them provides for a nuanced guide to a more sophisticated understanding of the Middle Kingdom beyond the confines of the Great [digital] Wall of China.
Lim Chye Hong, PhD, is an art historian by training with close to twenty years experience in the museum and heritage sector, including curatorial, programming, and leadership positions in Australia and Singapore. A specialist in Chinese art with sound knowledge of Australian and Contemporary Art, she has extensive networks in the arts in Australia, China, Hong Kong, Singapore, and Taiwan. Academically, Chye is Convenor for the Cultural Revolution Ceramics Symposium: Revolution, Tradition, Innovation, and Creativity (Singapore); English translator for Auspicious Metal from the Jianghan Plain: Shang and Zhou Bronzes from the Collection of the Hubei Provincial Museum (China); and English sub-editor forThe Tao Gives Rise to Ten Thousand Things: Taoist Relics from the Chu Region (China). Her current research focuses on Rethinking Chinesess and the Cultivation of National Pride through Cultural Objects within the Great [Digital] Wall of China.
The ANU China Seminar Series is supported by the Australian Centre on China in the World at The Australian National University’s College of Asia & the Pacific.
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