Zheng Tai

Made in China


German engineering art was not always the best in the world. In fact, before the 20th century German manufacturing was described as lacking in substance and taste, cheap and an unworthy copy of the original British art of engineering. And indeed, the designation Made in Germany was originally introduced in England to mark German products as cheap ones. This motivated the formation of a design consortium known as Deutsche Werksbund (DWB), a lobby group that took on the task of improving the poor image of German design. The results were astounding: Design standards were introduced across industries and within the space of around 20 years objects such as stairs, ball bearings, windows or handrails were standardised and intelligently designed. This collaboration between art, industry and craftsmanship led to a reform of German design, and not only did the image of German products improve drastically, but also the image of Germany as a whole! Today, the designation “Made in Germany” continues to be the epitome of good quality and design.

Is the term Made in China possibly undergoing a similar development? This question forms the basis of his project. This requires a macroscopic analysis from both a design and a cultural perspective but also a cultural one. Philosophic, art-specific and historical research about China’s imitation behaviour, the parallels to the west and a comparison of both perspectives will form the core of this dissertation project. The aim is to examine the cultural and aesthetic development of China as a response to (post-)colonialism with the help of the cultural science term “mimicry”. Specifically, I will examine to what extent this imitation behaviour can be attributed to a post-colonial adaptive reaction. Apart from the western colonialist interventions you must naturally also consider China’s own dynamic development such as the cultural revolution, in order to understand the various influences on Chinese designers.