State power metaphor and reality

Remaking Beijing traces China’s modern and contemporary experience, focusing on Tiananmen Square in Beijing, still the most exalted space in China today. Wu Hung describes the square’s transformation from a proscribed imperial space to a public arena of political expression, and from a monumental Communist complex to a holy relic of the Maoist era. For over half a century, since the square became the symbolic centre of the new socialist capital, it has determined the city’s development; in examining the square, the author examines the city as a whole.

Wu Hung also explores the importance of Tiananmen as a locus of visual production in China: as the site for Mao’s standard portrait on Tiananmen’s façade; as the location of museums and monuments showcasing masterpieces of socialist art; and as a parade ground for extravagant National Day celebrations. In recent years it has also inspired unofficial artists to create a large body of works – paintings, photographs, performances – which challenge its authority.

Using a wide range of sources including government archives, newspapers, photography, architecture, literature, art exhibitions and advertisements, this book explores the history and complex meaning of Beijing’s public spaces. As a native of Beijing, Wu Hung witnessed the construction and transformation of the city; in this book he combines historical enquiry with his own personal experience, offering a case study of a particular type of modern metropolis whose construction is intertwined with the creation of a political nation-state.

Wu Hung is Harrie A. Vanderstappen Distinguished Service Professor in Chinese Art History at the University of Chicago. He is the author of several books including The Double Screen: Medium and Representation in Chinese Painting (Reaktion, 1996), and curator of many exhibitions of contemporary Chinese art and photograph

Remaking Beijing, by Wu Hung REAKTION BOOKS • 2005


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