The Art of Duration: Echoes of Untimeliness in Chinese Cinematic Experiments
This dissertation examines a range of durational cinematic experiments in post-1980s China and Taiwan, arguing that the contemporary period in reform-era China and post-martial law era Taiwan is better explained through the framework of durational temporality than chronological time. Challenging linear, progressive temporalities that dispense with the past too quickly in favor of idealized futures, durational temporality allows for contradictions such as the coexistence of socialism and neoliberalism, the co-presence of nostalgia and amnesia, and the reinvention of tradition alongside modernity. Through attention to the interruptions of untimeliness in cinematic and literary texts, this dissertation demonstrates that the search for a distinctly Chinese identity in the contemporary era resurrects the signs of tradition, rurality, and spirituality not to essentialize an ahistorical Chinese identity, but rather point out the historical erasures and disjunctures constitutive of the modern Chinese identity. My case studies include durational films by Jia Zhangke, Wang Bing, Wu Wenguang, Tsai Ming-Liang, Edward Yang, and Zhang Mengqi as well as the long-term oral history projects conducted by Liang Hong and the Folk Memory Project.