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Body and language as carriers of transculturality in two Sinophone transnational artists

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In a global context characterized by a growing complexity of the dynamics of Chinese transnational mobility, we find the need to resort to a new vocabulary to understand the localized artistic expressions related to such dynamics. In this article, we focus on two Chinese artists, Musk Ming (1979‐present) and Tony Cheung (1987‐present), who live and work across China and Europe, reflecting on how their transnational life trajectories combine with the transculturality expressed in their works. Considering body and language as two privileged sites of ethnicity, the article suggests that, in their representation, the authors engage in a process of critical deconstruction of ‘national culture’ and ‘ethnic identity’. Such deconstruction is achieved by disconnecting cultural tokens from their ‘ethno-national’ or historical referents, creating instead unlikely or unexpected associations with elements extracted from non-Chinese contexts, or using them to critique the very cultural lineage they are supposed to embody. Considering the critical reception of the artists’ work in Europe, the article also discusses how this act of defamiliarization provokes the viewer by contesting both the ‘Chineseness’ and the ‘westernization’ of the artwork itself. The critical representation of body and language thus creates a powerful discourse to question the equation of ethnicity and culture, compelling viewers to go beyond a superficial characterization of the two artists’ work as either ‘genuinely’ Chinese or ‘critically’ hybrid.

Keywords: Chinese European art; Chinese mobility; Chineseness; Musk Ming; Sinophone Europe; Tony Cheung

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Universit√† di Firenze 2: Ca’ Foscari University of Venice and Heidelberg University

Publication date: July 1, 2022

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