Harrison, M, Space, Time and Images on the Surface of China, Association for Asian Studies Annual Conference, Interarea Panels and Abstracts, Session 87: The Visual Politics of Asia: Lens-Based Images in the Modern World, March 15-18 2012, Sheraton Centre Toronto, Canada EJ (2012) [Conference Extract]
This paper examines the configuration of time and space in the Beijing art, fashion and design magazine Surface. Surface is a glossy international magazine that offers readers a definition of what is cool, cutting edge, and emerging in the world of global design, art, and fashion. Its Beijing version in Chinese mimetically re-presents this globalized vision of high modernism, but reconfigures global space to place China at its center. Global visual culture is expressed in the magazine through the image-making and reproduction. Its technologized view generates an economy of images in which a value of global cultural legitimacy is accrued through the use of graphic design and photography which clearly reference international fashion photography. This paper argues that the reconfiguration of space in the Chinese edition of Surface, through its representation of the international vectors of global consumerism, follows an established pattern in which the local becomes an absent presence in these cultural forms. The paper then suggests that it is time, not space, that mediates this form of globalization in China. Just as the magazine appeals to modernist notions of the avant-garde, its presence and global style temporalizes the discourse of contemporary China itself into a form of avant garde. Becoming one in which its deferred signification is an intervention in established structures of global power. It is through that deference of meaning that China is being repositioned.