798: From Artist Village to Art Zone. The Implications of a Semantic Change

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798: From Artist Village to Art Zone. The Implications of a Semantic Change

Type: Research master thesis
Title: 798: From Artist Village to Art Zone. The Implications of a Semantic Change
Author: Di Pietro, Giulia
Issue Date: 2014
Keywords: Artist Village; 798; Art Zone; Caochangdi; Beijing; Creative Industries; Place-making; Place-branding; gentrification; soft-power; heritage
Abstract: This thesis has focused on the transition of the 798 Dashanzi factory from 'artist village' to 'art zone' to show the positive and negative effects of the implementation of creative industries in the Chinese urban context. I traced its evolution from its origins as an electronics factory, to an appropriation of urban land by artists and workers of the creative field, to an institutionally-accepted and promoted centre for 'creativity' and innovation. This evolution is deeply intertwined with socio-economic factors which the Chinese government supported as vehicles of (urban) development since Deng's 1978 'Open-door Policy': the dismantling of the danwei (work unit) structure; urbanization; the emergence of a real-estate market, and the rise of an urban upper-middle class. In addition, since the mid-2000s and following the explosion of Chinese contemporary art in the global art market, the government has supported the implementation of Culture Creative Industries as a strategy to build Chinese soft-power and capitalizing on intellectual property. If, on the one hand, these policies had indirect positive effects, such as the preservation of former industrial structures and the incrementation of the local economy, on the other hand they had dramatic consequences on the social environments which were subjected to them. In particular, in the case of 798, the artist community that gave rise to the artist village has been dismembered in favour of commercialization and gentrification of the area. Contemporarily to 798, the Caochangdi artist village sprang up as an urban village on the fringes of Beijing and has constituted itself as an independent reality, taking advantage of the semi-regimented rural status and falling into the cracks of Beijing's residential administration system. Thanks to its semi-illegal configuration, it has managed both to take advantage of the new creative policies implementing local economy, and to maintain the local community somewhat untouched by top-down urban rehabilitation. By adopting a perspective from the theories of place-making and place-branding, the comparison among the two artist villages and the analysis of their transformations helped me to stress the importance of the role of communities in the management of these areas.
Supervisor: Esposito, Adele
Faculty: Faculty of Humanities
Department: Asian Studies (Research master)
Specialisation: MA Asian Studies, Histories, Arts and Culture of Asia (Critical Heritage Studies of Asia and Europe)
ECTS Credits: 15
Handle: http://hdl.handle.net/1887/32678

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