Written, directed and produced by AAA, this documentary explores the impact of books, magazines and popular culture on the development of experimental art in Southern China in the 1980s.

The 1980s was a seminal period in the history of contemporary art in China. However, the contribution and experimentalism of the art scene in South China, in particular, Guangzhou and Shenzhen, have generally been overlooked. Due to the proximity of Hong Kong, western ideas from translated books and articles, as well as popular culture in the form of TV shows and Canto pop, flooded over the border to Guangdong at the end of the Cultural Revolution. This influx of new ideas and popular culture sparked great excitement, debate and experimentation in the arts.

Based on primary research, rare film footage and personal interviews with key artists, this documentary bears witness not only to the reading fever that gripped the Chinese art world in the 1980s, but also highlights the experimentalism and verve of artists and critics in South China whose contributions to the development of contemporary art have been long lasting and fundamental.

Context

In 2006, Asia Art Archive began a focused archiving project called 'Materials of the Future: Documenting Contemporary Chinese Art from 1980-1990'. This project aimed at developing a comprehensive collection of primary research materials including books, periodicals, newspapers, exhibition brochures, invitations, video recordings, correspondence, and other relevant documents. 

As part of this project, AAA digitised more than 80,000 items of material from personal archives to include artists Mao Xuhui, Wu Shanzhuan, Zhang Xiaogang, and Zhang Peili; curators and critics Fei Dawei, Lu Peng, and Zheng Shengtian; as well as the archives of Tokyo Art Gallery. As part of the research process over 75 in-depth interviews with key artists, curators, and critics were conducted. From a portion of these interviews, AAA created a documentary film about experimental art in South China (Guangzhou) in the 1980s entitled From Jean-Paul Sartre to Teresa Teng: Contemporary Cantonese Art in the 1980s.

AAA’s 1980s archiving project culminated with the launch of a comprehensive website portal called www.china1980s.org in September 2010.

Access level

Online

Language

English, 

Mandarin, 

Cantonese

Publication date

2010

Content type

documentary, 

event photograph/recording

Rights statements

In Copyright

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From Jean-Paul Sartre to Teresa Teng: Cantonese Contemporary Art in the 1980s (English subtitles)