Global arts, humanities festival features China

January 13, 2017

IU Bloomington is hosting the largest Chinese arts and culture festival ever mounted in the Midwest — the inaugural Global Arts and Humanities Festival, “China Remixed: Arts and Humanities in Contemporary Chinese Culture.”

The 2017 festival is sponsored by the IU Bloomington Arts and Humanities Council with support from various units and departments across campus. Most of the more than 40 events — which include exhibits, performances and films — are free and open to the public.

The festival offers a range of programming through April 2017, with events featuring best-selling graphic novelist and MacArthur Fellow Gene Luen Yang; acclaimed novelist Ha Jin; Grammy-winning musician Wu Man; breakout comedian Joe Wong; and many others.

“China Remixed” will include a film series at the IU Cinema with visits from four world-class film scholars and more than 20 films selected by students. In addition, the festival will bring several art installations to campus, including a photography exhibit in the Wells Library by Lü Ping, a visual art exhibit in the Grunwald Gallery by Beili Liu and an exhibit of quilts from Southwest China at the Mathers Museum of World Cultures.

The Global Arts and Humanities Festival was created to highlight the international face of IU Bloomington’s campus and the central role arts and humanities play in its international offerings and cultural exchanges. The festival will be an annual event highlighting the art and culture of a different country or region each spring semester.

“The Bloomington campus attracts creativity from all corners of the globe,” said IU Bloomington Provost and Executive Vice President Lauren Robel. “‘China Remixed’ launches into the stratosphere from that base and gives our entire community an unparalleled opportunity to become immersed in the work of some of today’s finest Chinese and Chinese-American artists and thinkers.”

The 2017 festival will emphasize contemporary and modern cultural activities from China, Taiwan, Hong Kong and the Chinese-American community in the United States. In addition to music, comedy, theater, film and gallery exhibitions, the 2017 festival also includes a speaker series featuring guests such as New Yorker staff writer Jiayang Fan and environmental advocate Judith Shapiro.

“China was a natural choice for our first Global Arts and Humanities Festival,” said Ed Comentale, professor of English, associate vice provost for arts and humanities, and chair of the IU Bloomington Arts and Humanities Council. “Chinese students and Chinese faculty have made countless contributions to IU’s history and success. The festival reaches into every corner of the campus and highlights the many ways we facilitate dialogue and exchange between cultures.”

“China Remixed” is designed to build new bridges between students from China and America. IU Bloomington has more than 2,800 Chinese students on campus, accounting for more than 45 percent of IU’s international enrollment. A number of Chinese and Chinese-American students, faculty and alumni helped organize and plan “China Remixed,” including alumna Grace Boya Shen, the student speaker at IU Bloomington’s 2016 undergraduate commencement.

“It is always significant and interesting for us to know a different culture and meet different people from all over the world — but it is not always an easy thing,” Shen said. “We often see the surface of a new culture but are unable to see the core. ‘China Remixed’ offers multiple chances for all of us to discover what is hidden beneath the surface of Chinese culture. We hope that students will learn something from this festival that they can’t learn anywhere else.”

The program includes many opportunities for students to collaborate with guests. Students in the IU Contemporary Dance Program will perform with 22 student dancers from the Taipei National University of the Arts on Feb. 24. Students in the Fine Arts Program will help install the Beili Liu exhibit. And the Jacobs School of Music’s New Music Ensemble will perform with world-renowned pipa player Wu Man on March 31. The festival also includes a student storytelling exchange.

IU’s award-winning chef Dave Tallent will help Chinese students translate family recipes, which will be offered at April’s First Thursdays event April 6 on the Arts Plaza. The event will also include a Chinese night market and a bubble tea contest, in addition to many performances and activities.

Funding from the Office of the Vice Provost for Research and the Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education will support original undergraduate research and creative projects, which will be presented at a conference in the Wells Library at the end of the festival.

The festival officially opens Feb. 15 with “Remixing China Through Video Art,” a talk by Isaac Leung. The artist, curator and researcher has received considerable attention in China and the United States for his video and new media work.

Other highlights of this year’s festival include:

  • Feb. 23: Reading by comic-book artist Gene Luen Yang, who was nominated for a National Book Award for his graphic novel “American Born Chinese.”
  • March 2: A talk and reading by writer Ha Jin, author of the National Book Award-winning “Waiting.”
  • March 8: “Entwined Destinies: America and China and a History of the Present and Going Forward into the Age of Trump,” a talk by Gordon Chang, professor of history and humanities at Stanford University.
  • April 12: Peter Hessler, MacArthur Fellow and former Beijing correspondent for The New Yorker, delivers a talk titled “Learning to Speak Lingerie: Chinese Entrepreneurs in Egypt and the Chinese Worldview.”
  • April 14: Performance by stand-up comedian (and biochemist) Joe Wong, a favorite on David Letterman’s and Ellen DeGeneres’ shows.
  • April 18 and 19: The groundbreaking play “Thunderstorm 2.0” will be presented by a large company of actors as a movie is filmed, edited and screened above the stage in real time.

The Global Arts and Humanities Festival was envisioned as part of the IU Bloomington Campus Strategic Plan, which includes among its primary objectives fostering diverse and global experiences for students, as well as emphasizing IU Bloomington’s historic strengths in the arts and humanities.