“In the art world, there has been no event that goes against the authorities for many years,” Chen said. “There were no heroes or legends; there were commercialized performances.”
Chen is ambivalent about the degree to which artists are responsible for standing up to censorship. “The most important thing for good artists is their purpose in making art, which should be resisting the mediocrity of life,” he said.
Wang pointed out that censorship is pervasive and cross-cultural. “In the ’90s in China, your exhibition may be censored if you showed a nude image, yet today in 2018, on the largest image sharing platforms in Euro-America, such as Facebook or Instagram, the same policies apply,” he said. Images that do not meet the platforms’ community guidelines (including nudes) are taken down, and repeat offenders can have their accounts closed or suspended.
Art is typically given more freedom to transgress than multinational corporations, though, and on this score, Chinese artists are optimistic. “The development of contemporary culture and art in China might be hard, but it is inevitable,” said Hu Jieming. “Under layers of censorship, we see the contemporary art and culture are gradually being established, and that is the reason for our confidence.”