Dr. David Brubaker

"Contemporary Chinese Art in Beijing: Pressures of Change, Balance and Spirit"
Thursday, March 22, 2012 at 3:00 p.m. in the Marvin K. Peterson Library


Today, Beijing is a place of pressures, creativity and promising changes. World historical economic growth in China raises a question of global interest to us all: How is the material to be balanced by the spiritual? Where can one find language to speak of maintaining spiritual balance, in an age permeated by technoscience, material knowledge, and the selling and packaging of desires? Is the question of balance quaint? Or is it instead the idea of material progress that is rosy and quaint, as neighborhoods change rapidly – again and again – so that historical and material realities vanish right before one’s eyes?

During October 2011, I flew to Beijing to participate in two forums on Chinese contemporary art, at the invitation of Chinese artists, art critics and their organizations. While in Beijing, I had the opportunity to visit galleries and to speak at length with Chinese colleagues: artists, museum curators and specialists on traditional Chinese aesthetics. Questions on what constitutes equilibrium and the sources of its creation are living and inescapable. Beijingers in all walks of life now experience their own participation in creating an ethos that balances “Chineseness”and a wealth of traditional cultural resources, with influential participation in an interdependent global community of the 21st century.

By projecting and analyzing numerous images, I will attempt to share some of the current concerns and expectations that artists in Beijing express through their artworks. Artists often address issues regarding cultural direction and options: they contribute to equilibrium and community by realizing, making real, and preserving our contacts with some ground that persists amid the flux. As material traditions vanish by bulldozer, come-to-be be by crane, and pass-away in consumer fashions, Chinese artists, living in the gap between histories, may hint at places of self-embodiment that render equilibrium, agency and social harmony possible.

Biographical Information

David A. Brubaker lectures in philosophy at the University of New Haven. He has a Ph.D. in Aesthetics from the University of Illinois at Chicago and an M.F.A. in Painting from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. He works in such areas as contemporary art, architecture, feminism and care, ethics, Buddhist aesthetics, and on figures including Merleau-Ponty, Shitao, Nishida, and Iqbal.

His publications include articles in the Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, Journal of Value Inquiry, Analecta Husseliana, Film and Philosophy, as well as book chapters in Interrogating Ethics and Subversive Strategies in Chinese Contemporary Art. In addition to art reviews for artinASIA, KuArt, and Chinese Social Science, he remains active as a painter and printmaker.

In October 2011, he was invited by Chinese colleagues to speak both at the Songzhuang Art Festival and Academic Forum and at the National Museum of China for the Thirtieth Anniversary of the China Academy of Painting.