Processes of rapid urbanisation and the unprecedented building frenzy have resulted in the transformation of Chinese cities into construction sites as well as in the permanent loss of vernacular city fabric. This development has engendered an unparalleled modernization and refashioning of cities for visual consumption. In particular international events on Chinese territory have brought forth a spectacularization and monumentalization of Chinese urban space. Mundane sports stadiums, office towers and opera houses have hence served as architectural signifiers of power and economic ascendancy. Departing from the semiological assumption that architecture, and monumental architecture in particular, adopts a communicative function, the paper looks at how this communication is conceived and how meaning is attributed to monumental buildings in contemporary Chinese visual culture. It will be shown that the utopian social outlook with which architects and urban planners imbue their monumental works often contrasts with the dystopian subjectivities their edifices inspire among cultural producers. The paper first briefly re-examines the notion of monumentality and contrasts it against the related concept of the monument. This is followed by a discussion of two case studies in the field of contemporary Chinese film and art, which engage inquisitively (and comically) with China's architectural spectacle. The paper tries to show that a sense of alienation prevails in the cultural realm with respect to China´s architectural transformation, but that visual culture and architecture eventually coalesce in creating architectural meaning.
Angela Becher, School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), United Kingdom
Stream: Arts & Humanities
This paper is part of the ACAH2013 Conference Proceedings (View)
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