Part II

The Besieged City

In this chapter, the ethnographer takes on the role of interpreter as curators from two U.S. institutions—the Walker Art Center and Yerba Buena Center for the Arts—visit the studios of Beijing artists in preparation for exhibits with global dimensions. Participants in these cultural encounters struggled with the constraints of a world organized according to a nation-state system and, speaking nearby, articulated visions of minor transnationalism. They also reiterated ideas of authorship and originality and social distinctions of class and gender in making art worthy of the world stage. This chapter focuses on the politics of translation through which artworks enter international circulation. It demonstrates the making of art as a process that involves multiple social actors, as well as the superimpositions, alterations, and erasures that result from the exchange.