Dr. Minerva Inwald to Present at the OSA Lunchtime Seminar Series

Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences

The OSA Lunchtime Seminar Series
Tuesday 29 October 2019

SOPHI Common Room 882,
Brennan MacCallum Building A18

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The Aesthetic Needs of the Masses: Artistic Reception in the Aftermath of the Great Leap Forward

Dr Minerva Inwald

Please join us for the first in the OSA Lunchtime Seminar Series

In May 1962, as the People’s Republic of China was recovering from Mao’s disastrous Great Leap Forward, the newly constructed Museum of Chinese Art in Beijing held its inaugural exhibition: a celebration of the twentieth anniversary of Mao’s treatise on socialist cultural work, “Talks at the Yan’an Forum on Art and Literature”. This paper analyses descriptions of the new Museum and its inaugural exhibition to explore how the party-state mobilised artistic practice to contribute to post-Leap recovery efforts. In contrast to Great Leap Forward cultural policies that demanded art rouse enthusiasm for labour amongst workers, peasants and soldiers, in 1962, cultural bureaucrats argued that art should serve the “aesthetic needs” of the masses. Articles in People’s Daily and professional journals discussing the new Museum presented the institution as a space for aesthetic pleasure, describing, or even imagining, the enjoyment of exhibition visitors as they toured the Museum’s halls and gardens. This paper argues that cultural bureaucrats used ideas about reception both in an effort to win back a disillusioned population with the promise of amusement and pleasure, and to model an idealised relationship between the people and the socialist state; praising exhibition visitors for reporting their opinions and critiques of artworks, cultural bureaucrats suggested that the party-state was concerned with popular opinion and responsive to criticism. Exploring the party-state’s deployment of reception as a political resource, this paper considers the complex ways in which meaning was made in socialist artistic culture.

Dr Minerva Inwald  

Dr Minerva Inwald is a Researcher based in the Department of History, University of Sydney, focusing on the cultural history of the People’s Republic of China in the Mao era. Using Chinese-language primary sources to examine how exhibitions at this prestigious space were used to communicate ideas about the role of art in China in relation to conceptions of ‘the people,’ her research seeks to investigate broader questions of how art objects circulate in museum contexts, as well as outside museums such as in domestic, work and public spheres. Minerva graduated with Bachelor of Arts (Languages) Honours degree from the University of Sydney in 2012, and in the same year was awarded the Francis Stuart Prize for Asian Art History form the Department of Art History. She has contributed a number of papers at academic conferences in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, and recently undertook an 8-month postgraduate exchange program at Beijing’s Central Academy of Fine Arts.

About the OSA Lunchtime Seminar Series

On the last Tuesday of every month from October, the Oriental Society of Australia will hold lunchtime seminars for all to attend and hear from researchers working across different geographical and cultural understandings of Asia.  

The series will feature early career and higher degree researchers, and we hope to develop a network of perspectives from across the region. Please join! And get in touch if you would like to present at a future date.  

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The Seminar Series runs on the last Tuesday of every month.

The Hornsby Shire Historical Society: My Local History.

The non-for-profit organisation that I have chosen to work with is the Hornsby Shire Historical Society, a historical society situated in the North-Western suburb of Normanhurst. My first experience with the Hornsby Shire Historical Society came when I made a school visit to them as a student at Normanhurst West Primary School. I wouldn’t have been older than 8 years old, however, their commitment to educating the community is something that I have remembered all these years. So when it came time to choose an organisation to work with, the Hornsby Shire Historical Society was my first choice.

The Hornsby Shire Historical Society, located in Kenley Park.

Tucked behind the trees of Kenley park, the Hornsby Shire Historical Society is a multi-faceted organisation that is involved in numerous parts of the community. The Hornsby Shire Historical Society houses a museum that showcases different aspects of everyday life in the 1930’s. This includes exhibits of a classroom and a grocery store which have both been restored to their former 1930’s glory as well as everyday items from this era such as toys, clothes, appliances etc. The museum is open to the public; however its main purpose is to educate children as it caters to school visits from all across Sydney.

Additionally, the Hornsby Shire Historical Society is concerned with research of the history of Hornsby and its surrounding areas and has a large collection of books and journals that it has published including the bi-yearly journal Local Colour which I will be contributing to in accordance with my research project. The Hornsby Shire Historical Society is also very committed to community outreach, as volunteers will travel to various retirement homes and other establishments to perform ‘show and tell’ like shows. The Hornsby Shire Historical Society has also been known to advocate and defend local heritage listings within the Hornsby Shire and act as advisors to local businesses and community members on historical matters.

A portal back in time: A fully stocked 1930’s grocery store.

Having lived in Normanhurst my entire life, I’m very excited to continue my work with the Hornsby Shire Historical Society and play a larger role in the community I grew up in. The volunteers have been so welcoming and helpful to me and the idea of having my work published in their journal Local Colour is a very exciting prospect. I’m really looking forward to the next few weeks ahead of me.