Aesthetics of Geopolitics: Art and Politics of Crisis at the Front Lines of the Taiwan Strait

Speaker: Chris Chan

What is the relation between art and war?

Taiwan and the islands in the Taiwan Strait have increasingly become the locus of heightening geopolitical tensions in the world and the site of a cultural and psychological contestation of the region’s uncertain future. This talk examines how artists, politicians and everyday villagers are mobilized at the front lines of China’s maritime border with Taiwanese-administered islands. Students will be introduced to a series of contemporary art festivals and exhibitions held within military bunkers and installations a few miles off the coast of the Chinese mainland and led through an ethnographic study of the aesthetics and anticipatory cultural feelings of crisis at one of the most politicized oceanic borders in the world. Together, we’ll explore the questions: What is the relation between art and war? What role do artists and cultural producers play within the larger context of great power politics, and how might a future of peace and sustainable co-existence be re-imagined in the age of divisive politics and seemingly irreconcilable identities of difference? In a world  that is reviving the Cold War binary of authoritarian versus democratic ideologies, these questions are ever more relevant and manifest through the work of public art and aesthetics that point to the possibilities of shared feelings and perpetual peace for the future.

About the Speaker

Chris Cristóbal Chan is a PhD candidate in the Department of Anthropology at the University of California, Berkeley. His research involves social imaginations of peripheral sovereignties as (re)mediations through the production of art and remaking environments at a moment of post- and neo- Cold War geopolitics. He holds prior degrees from Rice University and Stanford University, and his research has been generously supported by the Wenner-Gren Dissertation Fieldwork Grant, the Social Science Research Council International Research Fellowship, as well as the Fulbright-Hays DDRA Fellowship.

Suggested Audiences

Age: 9th - 12th grades and community college. Note that students in 9th and 10th grades may find the material challenging.

Preparation: This lesson will work best for students who have been introduced to the geography of the region and the conflict between China and Taiwan.

Courses: Art History, World History, Geography, Global Studies; East Asian studies; visual arts class within a unit on political art

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