Little sister has finally published her book, Drawing From Life: Sketching and Socialist Realism in the People’s Republic of China (University of California Press, 2020). Four years of dissertation research + writing; another four years of research and expanding and rewriting while teaching; a year spent cutting 150 images down to 87 images and reducing a 115,000-word manuscript by 15,000 words, indexing, permissions, etc., etc.: it is a relief to move on. I am moving on to an essay about decoration, a book-length project on murals, and another book-length project on collectives.
There are a lot of images, ideas, words, and other tidbits that didn’t make it into this, and other projects. Writing art history often feels a lot parasitical, conveying secondhand what has already been made and done, resurrecting works without permission or desire of their creators, published for personal aggrandizement. Is that a “minor feeling”? But right now, sitting in physical comfort but moral quandary, full-time child-caring in the shit-show stew that is covid America (“diaperstew” is a term used by full-time cloth diaper adherents), re-encountering each collected but unpublished image and document is another way to recall other webs, lives and beings, and movements beyond the present moment.
Here’s an omission, Chinese edition of a December 1950 Soviet Pictorial, scanned one sunny afternoon at the National Library in Beijing: