• Using supernormal stimuli and eroticism to create artworks: An experiment in countering cultural hegemony and the complexity of postcoloniality in Chinese public space

Gao, Chang, 2023, Thesis, Using supernormal stimuli and eroticism to create artworks: An experiment in countering cultural hegemony and the complexity of postcoloniality in Chinese public space PhD thesis, Royal College of Art.

Abstract or Description:

This is a practice-led research project that presents a critical analysis of cultural hegemony and the complicated situation of post-coloniality in Chinese urban space. It attempts to offer an alternative solution via a series of public artworks and a written thesis. The practice-based outcomes are based on ‘supernormal stimuli’, derived from evolutionary psychology, that trigger the viewer’s desire regardless of their racial, cultural, gender or individual differences. I use supernormal stimuli in the production of my artworks, not to sell them as commodities but as a subversive tool to reveal the issues within modernisation and consumerism, as well as using them to explore the utilitarian capitalist relations between viewers and public space. I contend that the energy induced from this desire represents people’s particular status and position, which could potentially disrupt and even reshape the existing socio-political and cultural political issues like cultural hegemony and postcoloniality.

As part of this analysis, this research investigates a deeper sense of coloniality and the role of Westernisation in the process of Chinese modernisation in the late twentieth century. This is addressed by analysing the complexity of post-coloniality, modernisation, industrialisation, Westernisation and globalisation: China is a partially Westernised country where people’s collective subconscious has been developed through the Communist Revolution. As a result, Chinese public space, that worships European prototypes, prestigious artists and Western values, denies the feelings of the public, which leads to a self-censored and self-colonised mindset among the public as a result of postcoloniality, westernisation, modernity and industrialisation.

The other focus of this research is bodily affect. I use supernormal stimuli and eroticism in the production of my artworks and compare how these two approaches provide a differing sense of affect during the encounter between the viewer and the artwork. By inducing different emotions from the viewer, with the use of robotic technology, AR interfaces and physiological sensors (ECG heartrate monitors), my art practice aims to provoke a multiplicity of feelings. Such complexity between the human emotions and bodily affect (that Donna Haraway termed “material semiotics”) is not only suppressed in public space, but also excluded in a patriarchal and hegemonic environment, as the sensuousness and fluidity of eroticism is not available within contemporary hegemonic environments at the representational level. In my research, I propose that material semiotics evoked by supernormal stimuli and eroticism could extend to the biological level and reverse the logic that if representation has a direct impact at the biological level of survival, when we target the biological level of bodily affect, it could also influence and even re-shape the representational level. I would like to bring the multiplicity of sensuousness back to the public space, as an act of resistance.

Within a politically sensitive environment like China, people are restrained from expressing critical opinions verbally. The intention of my research is to allow people’s subaltern people’s voices to be heard through bodily affects provoked by my work. My research argues that artworks produced using supernormal stimuli and eroticism are able to induce Sylvia Wynter’s notion of “non-symbolic representation” and Haraway’s notion of material semiotics. Affective embodiment, in this sense, goes beyond linguistic representation. By escaping the existing political system based around patriarchy, post-coloniality and reason, art can work to liberate sensuousness and bring eroticism and desire into representation. Erotic sensitivity to feeling, caring, fragility, sharing between differences, relations of use challenge the spoilt sense of privilege, creating energy and movement. This has the potential to reshape the existing repressive system of power involved in cultural hegemony and the complex situation of post-coloniality in Chinese public space.

Qualification Name: PhD
Subjects: Creative Arts and Design > W900 Others in Creative Arts and Design
School or Centre: School of Arts & Humanities
Funders: Chinese Scholarship Council
Uncontrolled Keywords: Supernormal Stimuli; Eroticism; Cultural Hegemony; Chinese; Public space
Date Deposited: 07 Sep 2023 11:08
Last Modified: 07 Sep 2023 11:08
URI: https://researchonline.rca.ac.uk/id/eprint/5519
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