The social network of Pan Yuliang’s (1895-1977) early career as a modernist artist and an art educator in the period of the Republic of China resonated with larger social-political movements at that time: from the cultural construct of ‘New Woman’ and the New Culture Movement, to the revolution and reform launched by the Nationalist Party and early Communists and the rise of modern nationalism in China, and from the end of World War I to the Japanese Invasion in 1937. While many of her male peers and acquaintances with western educational background advocated their social, political, and cultural visions in public, and made their way into mainstream history, Pan Yuliang’s own accounts related to major decisions on changes in her life and her artistic motivation are nowhere to be found. The silent journey continued beyond her return to Paris in 1937, and she left no written commentary regarding her concept for Quatre artistes chinoises contemporaines, which opened in 1977 in Musée Cernuschi in Paris. For this particular exhibition, Pan Yuliang extended the solo invitation to include three other woman artists, who worked in traditional art forms and were all part of the Chinese diaspora.
Inspired by Pan Yuliang and her decision to expand the exhibition of 1977 to others, Hu Yun, Huang Jing Yuan, Wang Zhibo, and Mia Yu are invited to form a research group functioning as a collective subjective agency. Departing from the idea of representing Pan Yuliang by claiming new territories of authority, various subjectivities are displaced in the constellation of Pan Yuliang’s past life, and her incarnation in our time as well as in the room of Villa Vassillief. Defying the usual autonomous area of individual work and artist, all of the participants in the exhibition are hosts as well as guests of each other’s contributions. The research and the exhibition form a polyphonic orchestra that not only echoes Pan Yuliang’s unique trajectory between modern and traditional China, the national and the transcultural, but also situates her constructed biography and artistic achievement within contemporary motives, detours, and universe.