Fabricating Nationalism: Contemporary Artist Chen Man Challenges the Idealized Woman in China of 2003-2012

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Chen Man, Young Pioneers - CCTV, 2008. ©Chen Man, courtesy Studio6, Beijing.

Fabricating Nationalism: Contemporary Artist Chen Man Challenges the Idealized Woman in China of 2003-2012 is a senior undergraduate honors thesis advised by Kristina Kleutghen and Ila Sheren. This project focuses on a selection of artworks produced during the 2000s by contemporary Chinese fashion photographer Chen Man 陈漫 (b. 1980), which reflect the sentiments surrounding the Beijing Olympics held in 2008. An analysis of her works, which range from magazine spreads to independent work intended for exhibition, reveals how the artist utilized the opportunity offered by a densely concentrated period of national image reconstruction, spurred by foreign pressures and government ambitions, to insert her own ideals and social commentary. Specifically, Chen challenges the ethnic and gender boundaries within the historical use of women as both symbols and bearers of national progress. Chen employs editorial space in fashion magazines and the presumed apolitical nature of fashion photography as a site, medium, and object for critical analysis of embedded social structures of power and injustice. Within the politics of representing Chinese collective identity within a global context, her artwork explores cultural stereotypes and defies dominant ideals of femininity.


This work contains exclusive interviews with the artist. To read more, the full document is available for viewing here.