Chinese Arts Centre curates London exhibit

ART: Birth and Belonging explores Chinese identity

MANCHESTER’S Chinese Arts Centre has curated a London exhibition which explores Chinese identity.

‘China: Birth and Belonging’ kicks off on Friday 26 February 2010 with a special performance and display of newly commissioned interventions at Wellcome Collection as part of larger exhibition ‘Identity: Eight rooms, nine lives’.

Chinese Arts Centre (CAC) CEO Sally Lai said: “Working with Wellcome Collection, Chinese Arts Centre is presenting an evening of intriguing performances that explore the complexity of identity.

“Reflecting a current trend in Chinese contemporary art of art as an event, the three performances offer unique perspectives that are at once playful, mesmerising and challenging.”

Accompanied on Saturday 27 February with talks by an international panel of speakers, Birth and Belonging will explore the complex nature of Chinese identity.

Questioning hot topics like the one child policy’s influence on family attitudes,  stem cell research and conflict in 20th- and 21st-century, the exhibition also brings together experts from the worlds of performance, humanities and science to provide exciting new insights into human identity.

Ken Arnold, Wellcome Trust’s head of public programmes, said: “As part of our ‘Identity’ season, we wanted to explore a completely different national identity. Is there an essence of Chinese identity? Is the nature of the individual within it distinctively different? Does ‘Chineseness’ remain unchanged when exported to ‘Chinatowns’ around the world? This symposium aims to go beyond common assumptions to delve into these fascinating questions.”

With a population of over 1.3billion, China is the most populous country in the world and therefore ideas of family and the individual differ dramatically.

According to various ancient philosophies, a person’s essence is founded in their interaction with the world. Life does therefore not begin at conception, but at birth. Traditional Chinese medicine is based on the idea that the body is influenced by inheritance, the environment and Qi (breath of life).

CAC’s curation asks how these ideas influence an individual’s sense of identity and belonging? And how does examining another nation’s perspectives on identity affect they way we view our own?

The contributing artists include Brendan Fan and his practice of discreet gestures, actions and interventions, Yuen Fong Ling and her workshop that reconfigures the traditional notion of life drawing, and composer Seaming To, who will be accompanied by a variety of Chinese musicians.

As well as this Prof Therese Hesketh, of University College London, will be examining the impacts of the one child policy, while Vivienne Lo looks at food’s effect on identity and Prof Rana Mitter, of University of Oxford, explores how war has altered Chinese ideas of identity.

Diana Yeh, Visiting Lecturer, University of East London, will also be revealing rarely told stories of artists and writers of Chinese descent in Britain and Prof Jack Price, of King’s College London’s Institute of Psychiatry, will be looking at how China’s world leading stem research effects the country’s culture.

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