• Issue
  • Jan 01, 2023

Shanghai: Conflicting Cycles

Installation view of KARRABING FILM COLLECTIVE’s The Jealous One, 2017, single-channel video with sound and color: 29 min 29 sec, at “Do Rocks Listen?,” ICA at NYU Shanghai, 2021. Both images courtesy the ICA at NYU Shanghai.

In early December 2021, we encountered local culture bureau officials for the first time, who had questions about our fall 2021 exhibition at the Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA) at NYU Shanghai, “Do Rocks Listen?” (scheduled: 10/14/21–12/18/21) a survey of films by the Indigenous media group Karrabing Film Collective. Our exhibition was subsequently closed two weeks earlier than scheduled. Perhaps I was naive to think that this was a simple jurisdictional misunderstanding. Until then, I had thought that our modest university art gallery program was shielded from censorship, overseen by a local education commission which had given our university more latitude than others with regards to academic freedom. It seems that I was mistaken. Cultural programs were separate from academic programs, i.e., research and education, particularly if such programs were open to the public. We were informed that the ICA at NYU Shanghai should now expect to submit exhibitions for censorship review, like any other arts organization in Shanghai.

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