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Posts tagged ‘出版 publishing’

In light of the last Happy Friends Reading Club meeting’s topical foray into the “aesthetics of sustainability” (addressed in an essay of the same name by Hildegard Kurt, as introduced by Victor Margolin’s text in Beyond Green: Toward a Sustainable Art), the validity of pinpointing or negating the any-be-all-whatever of contemporary art still stands at insecure shoulder to the hierarchies established by the art system, the values garnered by its economics and institutions and indices of fame. M.E. pointed out an important question raised by Margolin, of a possible aesthetics of ethics to describe those ambiguous projects (in his example, Mel Chin’s Revival Field “in which the artist explored the use of plants to remediate the soil in a landfill that had been contaminated by heavy metals.”) which become artistically difficult to interpret.

And while perhaps we should have been examining the ethics of any artistic practice all this time, it’s perhaps also true that a sublime—art historically speaking—needs not adhere to any particular ethic (unless that is an ethic in and of itself), as it induces the viewer (until glorious afterlife or perhaps now merely through the clicks) to a mode not unlike Agamben’s bumblebee, in a captivated kind of productivity, guillotined and still sucking for all it’s worth. This is perhaps the pre-thought to what I mentioned in the last post, “towards a ‘new’ language starkly founded in realism, unimaginative”, where aesthetics are the attributes of wallpaper styles and design tools to address real world issues. Not unimaginative by any means, but I wonder at which point in such an assembly line can meaning be redistributed.

Margolin’s essay calls for “a new aesthetic to embrace the three categories of object, participation, and action without privileging the conventional formal characteristics of objects. In this aesthetic, the distinctions between art, design, and architecture will blur as critics discover new relations between the value of form and the value of use.” If we have come towards forms of art-making that ‘see’ us through these categories, it becomes inevitable that ethics comes to the fore, and the voice of the artist be taken much more seriously than “wildly expressionist”. This puts art and its blurriness in danger of always being held to scales of use value, but let’s hope that it is still possible to expand the realms of possibility via the languages that we use, the way the signs are laid to their signifiers, to understand modes of transmission as the aesthetics of our ethics.

In an upcoming exhibition entitled All that Fits: The Aesthetics of Journalism, curators Alfredo Cramerotti and Simon Sheikh bring art and journalism together as “two sides of a unique activity; the production and distribution of images and information.” This elevation of the importance of forms of transmission alongside the production of the object itself is crucial to contemporary thought. It is a call upon the collective, or maybe a confirmation that past forms of beautiful solitude are less relevant in our ways of production, parallel to the ethical consideration of the other as artistic criterion. The press release of the show goes on to state: “Whereas journalism provides a view on the world, as it ‘really’ is, art often presents a view on the view, as an act of reflection.” These are both response-based attitudes towards creation inseparable from their need for reader/audience reception (one could go into that other discussion on intention here), and in our case, perhaps a fitting media for engaging object, participation and action via a context-specific endeavour. It’s an emergent thought exactly without that specific intention that Q.Y.Z. is always disappointed about. But if it’s 涌现 yǒngxiàn, as H.J.Y. prefers to call it, it’s etymologically happening in large numbers, and maybe that’s something to think about. Big time, baby, big time.

Images taken from a ritual for hair-tossed-to-compost, May 2011

QU may ask, “What is your purpose in doing this?” And so if news can never be fully objective, there must be an agenda in there somewhere, or at least a tendency, an implication. “Gentrifier” could be one in this case, as per recent discussions at HomeShop, the Other’s guilt, or being accused of cultural colonialism. Production of any sort could then be nullified, re-organised, rendered meaningless…but to muster up the words—oh!—now wouldn’t that be amazing?

The press was seen as a tool, a transmission belt for public opinion, a marketplace of ideas. It was the platform for public discussion of issues of local as well as national importance. Hence the Chinese government “is well advised to consult public opinion” through newspapers. Pictorial evidence from November 1907 ironically underlines this point. A huge pot is filled with a burning substance labeled 舆论 yulun, “public opinion.” The characters on the lid read: “The power is with the court.” It is apparent, however, that the fire inside the pot will not easily be controlled. Public opinion seethes visibly in spit of attempts to “put a lid on it”: clouds of smoke and flames escape not just through the gap between the pot and the lid but also from a hole at the bottom. [p. 16]

Of course it seems ridiculous to say ‘subversion’, just as it is to render pure identity, forms like ‘global’ can never be slick surfaces but would rather seethe like pots.

“The past is being drafted (consciously or unconsciously) into the service of present needs and purposes.”
—Paul Cohen

A cartoon that appeared in the 申报 Shenbao in October 1907 depicts the role of that alien medium, the newspaper: the caricature shows two buildings, an elaborate one labeled  宫庭 gongting, “the court,” and a much simpler one named 民间 minjian, “the people.” From the court,  秘密消息 mimixiaoxi, “the secret news,” is being transferred by telegraph to the people–but not directly. The node at which the telegraph line from the court and that leading to the people meet is labeled 外国 waiguo, “the West”. This image echoes a declaration made by the Shenbao in its first issue: “新闻纸之制疮自西人搏舆中土 The making of newspapers has been transmitted by Westerners to Chinese lands”. [p. 23-24]

Maybe that time of trying to ‘integrate’ can be laughed at now in retrospect, dynamics change here all the time and I’m just trying to keep up. Would it be possible to propagate from the perspective of distance (BJ to GZ), without being thrust into a commune-like resort of separatism? Words gather for the sake of themselves, sadly just another kind of branding, but what other pretext can there be for the gathering, words and identities on paper, another party?

Since the foreign Xinbao 新报 (= new bao) was a bao just the same, it was bound to be seen as akin to the Jingbao 京报 (capital bao). Foreign-style newspapers were aware that their audience’s perception of the newspaper was conditioned by their familiarity with the jingbao. They were quick to exploit this expectation: among other things, they reprinted the court gazette, imitated its format and punctuation, and adopted a name (xinbao, literally new announcements) formed in analogy to that of the court gazette (jingbao, literally capital announcements). They evidently felt that this foreign medium needed some “Chinese” legitimation. Why, then, did they not pursue the potentially convincing argument that the newspaper was really just a continuation of a indigenous Chinese tradition? Since by the late Qing finding Chinese origins for Western knowledge to be introduced to China (西学中原 Xixue Zhongyuan) had become a well-established rhetorical practice,  would this not have been a striking argument? [p. 25]

The principal difference, then, between foreign papers and their indigenous counterparts is the fact that the newspapers spread news by everyone from everywhere, whereas the Chinese papers report only official news. Naturally, the number of its readers was small and continued to dwindle. Moreover, the increasing centralization of politics, which peaked during the Qing and which was accompanied by a rigid system of secrecy laws (preventing the spread of all the “secret news” hinted at in Fig. I.2) confined the Jingbao to only the most commonplace court news and thus rather “boring” information. [p. 26]

Hurrah to boring news from everyone, all the time. Is it impossible to find a ‘new’ language starkly founded in realism, unimaginative?

… the Xinbao, the new(s)paper, was neither sold nor perceived as a foreign import. Instead, there was a strong tendency to domesticate it for Chinese use and Chinese understanding, for only thus—so it must have appeared to China’s newspaper makers—could it be an effective agent of change. [p. 31]

Indeed, however much the Shenbao may have profited from its foreign background, more often than not it had to defend itself against charges that it was a foreign medium or that it was pro-Western. this is the reason for its insistence that it relied on a Chinese readership and was thus written in Chinese by Chinese according to Chinese customs to be sold to Chinese. Like many other foreign-style papers, the Shenbao took pains to adapt to Chinese “idiom” (kouqi 口气). In the process, it created a “new” language with a “new” syntax that made the newspaper an acceptable and understandable means of communication. [p. 32]

Badiou, truth, new. Trajectory, 你的目的是什么?

All quotes above taken from A Newspaper for China?: Power, Identity, and Change in Shanghai’s News Media, 1872-1912.



— 高杏


经过一个月的努力,我们的办报经历总算完成,通过结算后我们不但还清了所有的欠款,还赢利100元左右。1968年的100元和今天的100元是不能同日而语的,对我们学生来说就是一笔大的收入,我班同学用这笔钱到武汉东湖风景区玩了一天,并吃了红烧桂鱼,余下的钱还买个篮球  和排球供班同学同共玩,到此,我们第一次办报按我们的理想顺利的完成了。