Pushing the Boundaries: Transnational and Transmedial Movement in Chinese Visual Culture, 1930s-1960s
2: Media Migration and Visual Warfare: Cross-disciplinary Experimentation in the Arts during the First Half of the Second Sino-Japanese War (c. 1937-1941)
Thursday, March 24, 2022
12:30pm – 2:00pm EST
Virtual Paper Presenter(s)
University of South Carolina, United States
In the late 1930s, the War of Resistance prompted a sudden outgrowth of synergetic spirit and cross-disciplinary engagement. As military onslaughts forced the largescale uprooting of the coastal intelligentsia, a corresponding shift transformed the arts community. Loose collectives of artists and thespians spearheaded a guerrilla art movement devoted to the production of anti-Japanese visual images and public works, and in the process abandoned highbrow art forms in favor of ephemeral artworks and informal performances. The National Salvation Cartoonists Association (Manhua jie jiuwang xiehui)—a corps of more than one dozen members—roamed the country holding cartoon exhibitions, printing propaganda posters, painting murals, and publishing serials. Meanwhile, playwrights and actors traveled China’s interior staging theatrical calls to arms. In some cases, the paths of artists and actors crossed in public art projects, such as patriotic plays staged outdoors in front of oversized propaganda painting backdrops. In other cases, individuals—such as Yu Feng, who participated in the Resistance Movement as war cartoonist, arts magazine editor, and theater performer—bridged the visual and performing arts. This paper examines the art activism of the early war years, with special attention to the print media’s presentation of exchanges between visual artists and street performers. I explore the ways in which this period of mass human migration spurred a media migration among the artists displaced by the fray. Traversing from one medium, format, or venue to another, itinerant artists searched for the most expedient means by which to engage new audiences and incite patriotic action.