CIHA 2016 in Beijing

34th World Congress of Art History

About History Press Release Sessions Schedule Activities Participants Venue Discussion Registration Closed


The Other without Otherness: On Three Contemporary Artists

Session 14 The Other and the Foreign: Contact, Curiosity, and Creative Exchange

Capital Normal University


As the essentialism quality of “Multiculturalism” was questioned by post-colonial theorists, such concepts as “cultural difference” was proposed. Artists turn to their own social group, seeking to communicate on this new basis. However, does this necessarily challenge both the practice of “Multiculturalism” and the basic order of present world? This essay will focus on three “minority” artists, trying to reveal that “the Other” are contributing to the utopia of international contemporary art in a concealed and structural way now.

Abramovic is good at constructing opposition between Self and Other, reviving the dualism deconstructed by postmodern theories. Also, her body provides a substitution to the suffering consciousness which is at the heart of Christian-civilization, and represents the basic needs of the Politics of Fear, acting as healing agency.

Xu Bing’s art is characterized by two factors. Firstly, he has chosen his art themes deliberately so that they fit the dominant values of western culture. Secondly, he tries to construct an interpretation system, which reflects both the order of a post-Duchamp art world and the hegemony natural of contemporary art practice.

El Anatsui’s art is characterized mainly by size and material. The greatness of his works belongs to the tradition determined by Wagner. And his obsessive use of bottle caps shows that he is resorting to such core issues as “consumer society”, and sharing the basic logic with ready-mades.

Although these artists have the identity of “the Other”, their works fit the frame of contemporary western culture perfectly. They are, literally, the Other without Otherness.

ZHAI Jing 

Zhai Jing (born 1978) was graduated with a doctor’s degree in art history from the Central Academy of Fine Arts in 2008, and is working for the College of Fine Arts, Capital Normal University in Beijing as an associate professor and a tutor for postgraduates now. She serves also as a member of council for the Chinese Woman Artists’ Association. Zhai Jing specializes mainly in the study of postcolonial theories. She has published more than 30 articles and a book so far.

Related Works:

1, A World on the Margin: On Homi K. Bhabha’s Postcolonial Theories. Published by: Culture and Art Publishing House, Beijing, 2013.

2, “Coming across: On William Kentridge’s Art”, in Art Observation, Apr. 2016.

3, “Gaze and Ambivalence: Reformation of the Structure of Power in ‘Orientalism’ paintings in the 19th Century”, in Art & Design, June 2012.

4, “Identity as Mimicry: Strategy of Some Contemporary Minority Artists”, in Art Observation, October 2012.

5, “Westernized Education and Oriental Classic Art”, in Art Magazine, June 2012.

6, “Homi K. Bhabha’s View of Identity”, in World Art, November 2010.