It’s been sad days here in China. On July 23, less than a month after the launch of the Beijing-Shanghai high speed railway line, two trains collided in Wenzhou, a city near Shanghai. Some 40 people reportedly died, and horrible images of the downed trains circulated around the internet, print media and television.
But I started noticing something as early as July 24. The Wenzhou train-related posts on Sina Weibo didn’t just continue. They grew. Netizen anger kept the collision at the top of Weibo’s trending topics for up to a week after the event, with some 10 million comments on the incident. The response was so strong that even the official news organ, China Central television, started putting pressure on the Ministry of Railways.
This isn’t, of course, your usual microblogging success story. Microblogging in China is subject to government regulations, and sites like Sina Weibo are required to censor material deemed too sensitive. We saw this in full effect as rumors of the death of former President Jiang Zemin began to circulate before quickly being quashed. Charles Custer at Penn Olson has a good overview of some of the implications:
Sina, like all domestic companies, is required to censor content on its site, but the train crash has proved too big for them to censor. It would be too obvious and dangerous to delete all 10,000,000+ messages about the accident, but deleting individual messages rarely works, as by the time a censor finds them they’ve been re-tweeted by dozens, hundreds or thousands of others.
The response fascinated me as an observer of and tinkerer with social media, but I honed in most on the artistic response. Since Weibo embeds images in posts, they naturally become part of the microblogging dialogue in a way more akin to Tumblr than Twitpics or Yfrog. And since images can’t yet be easily searched for by censors, ones that are critical of government bodies tend to have a longer shelf life than a purely verbal message.
This is what street art would look like on social media. Sina Weibo reminds me a bit of my native Silverlake/Echo Park area, home to much street art. Silverlake is a relatively free wheeling town but when the police rolled in, they rolled deep. How to circumvent Sina’s po-po? Images. The Wenzhou collision response images are visual, tolerated though perhaps officially not allowed, and they make use of existing public space to offer social critique, like street art. It’s this latter element — the subversive use of public space — that makes them unique from posting them on less-censored media like Twitter or Blogspot. They can only exist in a space like Sina Weibo, that’s both free and patrolled, driven by private interests, netizen interests and government interests.
I’m posting a small selection here, as a sketch. I left out those that require more background context and explanation, perhaps for a future post. [EDIT August 7: I’ve added a couple more.]
The Roman-era burial ground is located in Anazarbus (modern Anavarza) in the country’s southern Adana province.
Those with a Didion-shaped hole in their hearts can also bid for portraits of the author, her books, and other personal items.
The Brooklyn organization is now accepting new project inquiries for its fee-based fabrication services in printmaking, ceramics, and large-scale public art.
The union seeks a minimum wage of $20 by the end of 2024; the museum offered only $16.
Blurred Boundaries invites the viewer to recognize the ways in which queer art is not separate or other, but is actually always all around us.
The Newark Museum of Art Presents Jazz Greats: Classic Photographs from the Bank of America Collection
Photographers Antony Armstrong Jones, Milt Hinton, Chuck Stewart, Barbara Morgan, and more capture a breadth of legendary and local musicians and performance artists. On view through August 21.
Francis De Erdely had an intuitive grasp of the inner worlds of people who were coping with a sense of displacement in their daily lives, which he conveyed in his art.
Curator Amber-Dawn Bear Robe brings together historic and contemporary Native clothing designs at Santa Fe Indian Market.
Art and photographs, publications from the 19th and 20th centuries, manuscripts, posters and more are set to cross the auction block on August 18.
As the Uru-eu-wau-wau face continued incursion by Brazilian farmers, they take an active role in this documentary about them.
Arriving amid increased anti-Asian racism and continuing discourse about the inhumanity of its prison system, this documentary is a strong historical gut punch.
A “show within a show” at the Whitney Biennial pays homage to the visual and literary art of Theresa Hak Kyung Cha, whose life was cut short through an act of brutal violence.