The Art of Neighbouring: Exhibition at ArtsBuzz

What does China’s rise mean for those who live along its borders? Reflecting on the PRC’s strategies to foster trade, secure access to natural resources, and prevent unrest in its own borderlands, this exhibition shows the ways in which people’s lives and futures are affected by living along the borders. As rising China (the nation, the notion, the buzzword) channels aspirations, triggers fears and creates opportunities, “neighbouring” becomes a crucial skill in the borderlands – a skill that includes evading, openly opposing, making use of, or renegotiating the border situation.

In the first half of the 20th century, the fuzziness of erstwhile frontier zones was replaced with the sharp contours of nation-states. Political and military conflicts between the PRC and its neighbouring states brought many long-established trans-border relations to a halt. More recently, new stimuli of economic growth and material prosperity readily impelled a momentum of “opening up”. As ancient crossroads emerge as zones of contact and translation again, borderland communities actively engage with new possibilities; they also become targets of new regulatory regimes to “manage” the flows of people and goods across the borders.

This exhibition aims to show how the closure and re-opening of the PRC’s borders condition the myriad realities of making as well as being China’s neighbours through peace and turmoil. Three photographers present a selection of images that portray the diversity, the transformations, the vulnerability and the resilience of these border zones.

The exhibition is now being held at Central Library’s ArtsBuzz and is made up of two series. Series one will run from 1 to 15 September while series two will run from 16 to 30 September.

About the Photographers

DRU C. GLADNEY is Professor of Anthropology at Pomona College in Claremont, California. He began his field research in western China over 30 years ago, and has carried out more recent projects in Kazakhstan, Kyr­gyzstan, Turkey and Malaysia.

TOM CLIFF is a final-year PhD candidate at the Con­temporary China Centre of the Australian National University (ANU). He was a professional photographer before coming to academia. More of his work can be found at www.tomcliff.com

MARTIN SAXER is a Postdoctoral Fellow at Asia Research Institute (ARI). He car­ried out field research in Siberia, Tibet and Nepal since 2003. He is the director of two feature length documen­tary films, including “Journeys with Tibetan Medicine” (www.anyma.ch/journeys).

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