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‘Happiness Hefei’: public art and rural–urban citizenship struggles in transitional China

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Abstract:

On 8–9 May 2010, a deprived chengzhongcun (urban village) in the city of Hefei hosted a session of the Second Hefei Contemporary Art Biennale. In this article, we focus on the artistic practices and the online and offline discussions that they evoked. Drawing upon literature on citizenship, public art, public space and public pedagogy, we analyse the exhibition and its social and political potentialities. Looking at a case study in a country where fear of an aggressive crackdown is part and parcel of the psychology of urban protest, we reflect upon the pedagogical potential of public art in the struggle for equal rights to housing, education and urban space. By paying special attention to the geographical and the pedagogical dimensions of this extraordinary event, we demonstrate that public art can play a role in Chinese citizenship struggles.

Keywords: China; Chine; art public; arte público; chengzhongcun; citizenship; citoyenneté; ciudadanía; pedagogía pública; public art; public pedagogy; pédagogie publique

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/14649365.2012.723733

Affiliations: Division of Geography, Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, K.U. Leuven, Celestijnenlaan 200E3001,Heverlee, Belgium

Publication date: November 1, 2012

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