My claim that the new art in China operates at the level of matter and gesture, below that of discourse, is twofold. First, much of the art that is being made exemplifies principles articulated by Hsieh Ho (fifth century) and Shih Tao (seventeenth century) and refracted through the changes wrought by Mao in 1949 and Deng in 1979. Through their art, experimental Chinese artists ask what can art be in a world turned upside down, and what can it be to be artist in such a world and, in particular, to be a Chinese artist.

Second, in the course of working through these questions, the artists have resorted to an art that is an operation on matter, a matter inseparable from energy, and it is the artist’s activity, as much as what issues from it, that puts the artist in lockstep with the movement of the world of the twenty-first century.

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