China’s Third Modernity: In-Between-Moments and the Apparatus Media
This project analyzes conceptions of time in philosophic as well as artistic and aesthetic practices in early twentieth-century China. It focusses on the local appropriation of the globally standardized time- and apparatus-based technical media of industrial modernity and their relationship to antecedent Chinese art and media practices. The interactions of technical apparatus, aesthetic practice, and different historically shaped discourses meeting in the text production of Republican-era Chinese philosophers as well as in correlating artistic and media-based modes of representation produce multiple aesthetic proper times. Therefore, the project stresses the thesis of alterities of aesthetic modernity emerging from a multitude of mutual inscription and updating processes over the notions of a singular experience of modernity following hegemonial western models, or of cultural singularities lacking verifiable and analyzable points of contact and interactions. The analysis of philosophic practices focusses on the seminal texts of significant Republican-era intellectuals such as Zhang Dongsun, Liang Qichao, He Lin, Feng Youlan, Hu Shi, Liang Shuming, Xiong Shili, and Ai Siqi. These will be explored regarding conceptualizations of time as chronos or, in the sense of the literal translation of the Chinese characters for time, between-moment, and it will be tested to what extent they are involved in the construction of alterities of modernity.
Apart from epistemological aspects, the analysis will focus on the philological construction of modernity and the negotiation of the Neo-Confucian debate on the unity of knowledge and action, ethics and leadership, which continues to prevail in the twentieth century. The conceptions of time identified in these texts will be put in relation to the parallel analysis of Chinese works of art of the same era. As the programmatic medium of modernity, cinema stands at the center of this examination. The appropriation of cinema in China will be analyzed in a close reading of filmic texts with attention to the relation of technically predetermined linearity of time and discursive practice. The emerging aesthetics of time are to be connected to their surrounding conditions of production and explored with regard to their interplay with patterns of pre-technical media aesthetics. For this purpose, the project will take into consideration local opera and literary traditions that shaped the appropriation of cinema in China, and in turn experienced transformations under the conditions of industrial modernity themselves. It is the aim of the project to reassess imported modern regimes of time with regard to Chinese conditions of perception and the philosophical discourses and artistic practices of Chinese actors, and to describe a diverse and polychronic modernity within and beyond national-cultural demarcations.