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How do pictures make the world? In 1907 the Chinese fiction writer and social critic Lu Xun 魯迅 (1881-1936) essayed the thought that making the world depended on attunement towards beauty’s emotional vibrancy and on an imaginative frequency to scientific thought, both. This curatorial project asks after pictures made mostly during Lu Xun’s lifetime, in turn-of-the-century China, mostly by brush-and-ink painters, but also by embroiderers, photographers, cartoonists, taxidermists, map-makers, and others who worked self-consciously within the arts and sciences, popular or academic. Their pictures carry within them their own struggles with the rationalities of science, as well as emotions and imagination, to make the world. Still, as curators of each of the six thematic sections of the exhibition observe, the pictures also escape the hands of their makers; they are thrown back into the flow of time through the questions they pose of us now, questions that we hope will prompt us to see and sense nature and each other differently, and in doing so, to make our own world from a newly aware and nuanced perspective.
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