Xiangli Ding is an Assistant Professor of History in the Department of History, Philosophy, and the Social Sciences at the Rhode Island School of Design. His research interests lie at the intersection of the environment, technology, politics, and human life in modern China. He is currently finishing his first book manuscript, titled Hydropower Nation: Dams, Energy, and Political Changes in Twentieth-Century China.

Concrete Sublime and Somatic Intensity

Visualising Water Engineering in Socialist China

During the 1950s, the construction of large-scale water engineering infrastructure emerged as a crucial undertaking for the socialist state. Thanks to the collaborative efforts of engineers, Party cadres, and workers, this monumental task brought about revolutionary transformations to the landscape of China. Concurrently, a multitude of artists were commissioned to visit these projects and capture their essence. By closely examining and analysing some of these works of art, this essay aims to highlight the profound technological grandeur and immense labour intensity expressed in them, while also shedding light on some of the aspects that remained invisible within the state-sanctioned visual representations of these projects.

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