Evans’ work has opened up a new methodological approach to the study of the Mao era by treating the poster as an important visual resource for the teaching of 20th century China.
Evans’ research on Cultural Revolution (1966–76) posters departs from standard treatment of them as transparent ‘propaganda’ and argues that they were complex and often ambiguous visual components of a revolutionary discourse. In her view, they are a rich resource for thinking about China’s recent history, and for opening up critical reflection about the links between China’s recent past and her global importance today.
In this research, Evans engages with a range of non-academic audiences, including curators, journalists, film-makers, art practitioners, and the general public. She has given numerous public talks and lectures about the University of Westminster’s Chinese Poster Collection, and has worked with a number of primary and secondary schools to develop Westminster’s collection as a resource for the teaching of modern and contemporary China. She is currently working with a group of pupils of a Camden primary school to use poster images as the ‘lead-in’ for an interactive online project on China.
The exhibition co-curated by Evans, together with Stephanie Hemeleryk Donald, on China and Revolution, History, Parody and Memory in Contemporary Art, held in the University Gallery, Sydney, (and then at RMIT, Melbourne, January - March 2011) was visited by 14,000 people. Over 30 newspaper and media reports and reviews of the exhibition referred to its significance as a site for the discussion of migrants’ experiences of the Cultural Revolution. Poster Power: Images of Mao’s China, Then and Now, curated by Evans at the Regent Street Gallery, University of Westminster, May–July 2011, was visited by more than 4,500 people. In correspondence, conversations, media reports, and guided workshops in the gallery space, many visitors testified to the challenging questions the exhibition gave rise to about standard interpretations of China’s social and cultural transformation. Blog reviews of the exhibition posted on the innovative blog China Beat are further evidence of the exhibition’s challenging appeal.
Posters like these open up all sorts of ways for young people to think outside the box about the links between China's recent past and its global importance today.Donald McGibbon, Brecknock Primary School, Camden
Supported by: Luce Foundation, British Academy, Universities’ China Committee , Australian Research Council