Video (1hr 31min) Asia Art Archive

Can images shame or judge? How does an image punish?

In this presentation, Belinda Q. He, grantee of the Robert H. N. Ho Family Foundation Greater China Research Grant 2016–17, shows potential responses rooted in the art of what might be called “class exorcism.” The term refers to popular obsessions with the unmasking, accusing, and expelling of class enemies to guarantee the continued purity and transparency on which the Chinese socialist revolution depended. He’s project explores the violence and spectacle of class exorcism, as exemplified in “pidouhui” (批鬥會 struggle sessions), a constellation of generic practices that caused ordinary people to commit extraordinary (bodily, linguistic, or symbolic) violence in the name of pursuing the people’s justice. This talk will argue that pidouhui has an art history of its own and has been, in and of itself, an image-making machine across genre, time, and border, as well as a regime of visibility not necessarily coded in “class.” Following the presentation, He will be joined in conversation by Rebecca E. Karl, Professor of History at New York University and author of China’s Revolutions in the Modern WorldA Brief Interpretive History.

Image: Chen Shaoxiong, ink rendition of photograph of <i>pidou</i>, film still from video <i>Ink History</i>, 2010. Courtesy of the artist’s estate.
Image: Chen Shaoxiong, ink rendition of photograph of pidou, film still from video Ink History, 2010. Courtesy of the artist’s estate.

Belinda Q. He is currently a Society of Scholars Fellow (2019–20) and a PhD candidate in the Department of Cinema and Media Studies (CMS), affiliated with the China Studies and Taiwan Studies programmes at the University of Washington, Seattle. She is also the committee member of UW Taiwan Studies’ 2020 workshop Land/scaping Taiwan, and co-organiser of the Dissent Images Research Group with Zeng Xiaoshun and Brian Leung. Belinda's work has been supported by grants and fellowships from Asia Art Archive (AAA) and the Robert H. N. Ho Family Foundation, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR), Library of Congress, Chiang Ching-Kuo Foundation (CCKF), and Walter Chapin Simpson Center for the Humanities. 

Rebecca E. Karl teaches history at New York University. She is author of many books and articles, most recently of China's Revolutions in the Modern World: A Brief Interpretive History (Verso 2020). She is also founding contributor to the “praxis” section in the collective project