Social Media + Society (Jul 2020)

Curating and Exhibiting for the Pandemic: Participatory Virtual Art Practices During the COVID-19 Outbreak in China

  • Xiaodan Feng

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 6


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Since China’s lockdown of major cities in response to COVID-19, different forms of online participatory initiatives led by self-organizing groups of volunteers have greatly contributed to information circulation, patient admission support, and other aspects of coping with the pandemic. Although often overlooked by those studying online cultural production during the pandemic, a massive spontaneous and participatory creative outpouring of individual and collaborative artworks related to “fight the pandemic” are being published through platforms including Kuaishou, TikTok, and WeChat public accounts. This article argues that while these participatory online exhibitions published through WeChat opened up a temporary space of expression that both offset the lack of information and enabled alternative ways of understanding of and expression about the crisis, they were not only subject to pervasive state surveillance, but also co-optation by state media.