The Otherness of the Everyday (Book)

Twelve Conversations from Chinese Art World During the Pandemic

Based on a series of conversations, convened by Jiang Jiehong, director of the Centre for Chinese Visual Arts, Birmingham City University. Individuals from a range of disciplines including anthropology, architecture, art, curating, fashion, film, literature, music and photography reflect on experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic. 30 b/w illus.


At the end of 2019 to the beginning of 2020, when the coronavirus first emerged, Wuhan in China became the first city in the world affected by this deadly disease. It then rapidly spread to the entire country, and further on to Europe, America and the rest of the world.

During these strange times, we witness the emptiness of streets, squares and cities everywhere; we are estranged from and yet ‘connected’ to each other. As a response to the pandemic, Jiang Jiehong convened in-conversation talks with figures from different disciplines in the Chinese-speaking world, including anthropology, architecture, art, curating, fashion film, literature, media, museum, music and photography.

The twelve high-profile participants in these conversations are Xiang Biao, Zhang Peili, Pi Li, Zhang Zikang, Gu Zheng, Li Lin, Zhang Zhen, Shu Kewen, Jiang Jun, Wang Shouzhi, Chen Danqing and Zhu Zheqin.

These conversations foster new understandings of this present-day crisis; the threat of the invisible, notions of distance and spatialization, separation and isolation, communication and mobility, discipline and surveillance, and community and collectiveness, as well as the increase in conflicts and divisive voices between China and the world. At the same time, these reflections give us the opportunity to re-examine our past ‘normality’, and to project our future visions of a post-COVID world.

Readership will include those working and studying in the humanities and specifically in the disciplines of the interviewees, and those who have particular interests in contemporary China. The Otherness of the Everyday is also of interest to a more general audience who has experienced the pandemic and is seeking innovative understandings of this global crisis in human history.

Jiang Jiehong is head of research at the School of Art, director of the Centre for Chinese Visual Arts, Birmingham City University, and he is also principal editor of the Journal of Contemporary Chinese Art (Intellect) and author of The Art of Contemporary China (Thames and Hudson, 2021).

List of figures 


Introduction: The otherness of the everyday

1. The state of suspension

Conversation with Xiang Biao, 6 June 2020

2. The art of quarantine

Conversation with Zhang Peili, 13 June 2020

3. The end of the museums

Conversation with Pi Li, 20 June 2020

4. An exhibition in the palm of your hand

Conversation with Zhang Zikang, 27 June 2020 

5. Expressions of the pandemic

Conversation with Gu Zheng, 4 July 2020

6. In fashion at home

Conversation with Li Lin, 11 July 2020 

7. Filming the lockdown

Conversation with Zhang Zhen, 18 July 2020

8. Experience and knowledge

Conversation with Shu Kewen, 15 August 2020

9. In control

Conversation with Jiang Jun, 22 August 2020

10. Virus-affected design

Conversation with Wang Shouzhi, 29 August 2020

11. Infected or transmitted

Conversation with Chen Danqing, 5 September 2020

12. The un-isolatable

Conversation with Zhu Zheqin, 12 September 2020


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