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Discovering Socially Engaged Art in Contemporary China

City University of Hong Kong via FutureLearn

This course may be unavailable.



China has experienced dramatic changes over the past four decades - while the country is becoming more affluent, it’s also facing complex social issues. A number of Chinese artists have responded to these issues through powerful art.

Discover extraordinary works created by Chinese artists

These artists have created site-specific performances in lakes, rivers, and mountains to raise environmental consciousness; they have written songs and plays for millions of migrant workers, to address the issue of inequality; they have organized parades and festivals for villagers, to make the processes of rural governance visible. These artists not only contribute to social change, they also push the boundaries of contemporary art. They challenge the conventional modes of artistic production and reception.

In this course we will look at a number of art projects that address important social issues. We will study how they integrate aesthetic concerns with social concerns.

Explore Chinese art projects in depth

China is massive. It means on this course, we won’t be able to discuss every socially engaged artwork created in China over the past few decades. Instead, we will dive deep into a number of projects that are substantial, and representative of this exciting field. The focus of this course is not only on why the artists initiated these projects, but also on how they developed their ideas, overcame challenges, and pushed artistic boundaries.

Get inspired by experts, artists and other learners

The lead educator for this course is Dr. Zheng Bo, an expert in Chinese socially engaged art. He leads the “Socially Engaged Art in Contemporary China” research project at the School of Creative Media, City University of Hong Kong. In addition to course videos, you will also watch artist interviews, study visual materials, and participate in discussions. Through these varied learning you will gain a deeper understanding of contemporary China and of contemporary art.

In fact we hope you will also be inspired to create your own socially engaged art, to address something that matters to you in your community.

This course is intended for anyone with an interest in contemporary art and contemporary China. It doesn’t require any reading before you start or previous experience of studying the subject.

Taught by

Bo Zheng and Sarah HUANG


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