What is the purpose of cross cultural art exchanges?

This has been a season of cross cultural art because I’m participating in the SZHK Biennale and have been translating for the OCAT International Artists Residency Program. I have had opportunities to talk with artists not only from the United States, but also Europe and heard questions and comments that are interestingly different from those of Western academics and business people, until recently my usual non-Chinese interlocutors.

Other than the fact that good, deep cross cultural artistic collaboration takes time and patience and a willingness to let go of preconceptions and even values, what have I learned?

Short answer: philosophically, we’re all of us still carrying way too much baggage and practically, translators are seriously underpaid for the work we do facilitating communication despite break downs therein.

Long answer: As a form of social praxis and value structure, art functions very differently in China and the West. I have written about these differences with respect to theater (here and here). Briefly, in the West, artistic praxis has been a means of overcoming four forms of capitalist alienation (as identified by Marx): Continue reading