Yan Haiping Lecture: "'My Dream:' An Intermedial Turn in Urban Aesthetics and Chinese Cosmopolitanism
Centering on “My Dream,” the signature piece of the Chinese Disabled People’s Performing Art Troupe, this essay traces the ways in which it utilizes classical imageries grounded in Chinese traditions and turns them into a distinct movement of evocative signification across established cultural boundaries. The unusually intense energies engendered by this troupe, whether in its performance at artistic institutions, non-profit public venues, politically significant national theatres or fluid sites of the commercial markets around the world, amounts to a complex re-making of “the Chinese” amidst drastic changes while simultaneously drawing attention to the specific materiality of the performers irreducible to any “Chinese-ness” as such. The special capabilities required for and attained by these artists in order to redefine their otherwise marked “deficiency” on stage leverage as much as un-conceal the fecundity of human performance through which they also come to terms with the rubrics of “everyday life,” its mechanism of power relations, and its regimes of intelligibility. “My Dream” therewith dislodges the binaries between the normal and abnormal, the able and disabled, or the productive and superfluous, actualizing a form-giving process at odds with the logic of global capital and its ‘liquidating’ motions of spectacle industry. This essay argues how an intermedial aesthetic of the special performer transpires amid such a process, as a mobile method of being and becoming that invites reconsiderations of the relationship between the conditions of the historically [de]formed and the dynamics of embodied images of the cosmopolitan human.
About Yan Haiping
Formerly Professor of UCLA and then of Cornell University, Yan Haiping is University Professor of Crosscultural Studies at Shanghai Jiaotong University, and Fellow at the Center for the Study of Economy and Society, Cornell University. Her specialties include literature, theatre, cinema; urban aesthetics, social studies and crosscultural theory. Her recent major publications include Theatricality in Classical Chinese Drama (2003 & 2009), Chinese Women Writers and the Feminist Imagination (2006 & 2011); Intermedial Moments: An Embodied Turn in Chinese Cinema (2013); and edited volumes Theatre and Society (1998 & 2000), Other Transnationals (2005), Globalization and the Development of Humanistic Studies (2006), and “Post-80s Shanghai” and the Architectonics of Contemporary China (2013 & 2014). She is completing a book manuscript on cosmopolitanism and the rising of contemporary Chinese artistic culture.
Haiping Yan is an invited seminar faculty of 2006 Cornell School of Criticism and Theory, the 2008 Norman Freehling Senior Fellow at the Institute for the Humanities at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, and holds a Zijiang Chair Professorship in the Arts and Humanistic Studies at the East China Normal University in Shanghai since 2003. She is the 2009-2011 Founding Director of Cornell-ECNU Center for Comparative Humanities, and has been the Director of Arts and Humanities Council of All China Association for Returned Scholars.
Her accolades include China’s 1980-1981 First Prize for Excellence in Drama (the equivalent of the Pulitzer Prize in the U.S.) for her ten-act historical play titled Li Shimin, Prince of Qin, CNN’s 1999 selection as one of “six most influential Chinese cultural figures” for her scholarly and creative works both in English and Chinese, and the 2011 Award for Global Talents by the Shanghai Municipal Government, China.