Life and Death (Book)

Art and the Body in Contemporary China

For all their ubiquity, life and death have not been fully explored as integral themes in many forms of contemporary Chinese art. Life and Death addresses that lacuna. Exploring the strategies employed by a variety of Chinese artists who engage with these timeless concerns, Silvia Fok opens a new line of inquiry about contemporary art in a rapidly changing environment.


Fok focuses on the ways in which these artists use their own bodies, animals’ bodies and other corporeal substances to represent life and death in performance art, installations, and photography. Over the course of her investigations, corporeality emerges as a common means of highlighting the social and cultural issues that surround these life and death. By assessing its effectiveness in the expression of these themes, Fok ultimately illuminates the extent to which we can see corporeality as a significant trend in the history of contemporary art in China. Her conclusions will fascinate scholars of performance and installation art, photography and contemporary Chinese art.

Silvia Fok teaches at Hong Kong Polytechnic University. She is the author of two books in Chinese, most recently Performance Art in China: Site and the Body.

'This useful and concise review of Chinese art of the 1980s and ’90s analyzes the use of human and/or animal bodies or body parts as material elements in artistic creation and exhibition, primarily in performance and installation art.' 

The China Journal, Carolyn M. Bloomer

'Fok’s obvious and sincere effort to bring the artists’ intentions to the fore, and her inclusion of several lesser-known performance and conceptual works are a welcome addition to the field.' 

Asian Studies Review,Elizabeth Emrich
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