Tracing the Last Mile examines representational strategies of traditional Chinese hand scroll paintings to study the impacts of rapid urbanization on the journey home. By spotlighting specific journeys of the Chinese New Year Golden Week migration, and placing human practices and cultural logics at the center of discussion of globalization1, this thesis endeavor to weave the research of Aihwa Ong, a Malaysian anthropology scholar, with one of China’s oldest forms of art—the hand scroll paintings.
Hand scroll paintings dating back to the Ming dynasty are studied on the three criteria of content, technique, and format. First, the sense of hierarchy used to portray content in the scrolls, will be discussed in relation to how we can deploy democratic ways of depicting levels of class within China’s evolving social ladder. Secondly, the techniques of scale and perspectival distortion will be analyzed to learn how space and time of the journey can be represented within a static drawing. Thirdly, the handheld format of rolled scrolls will be challenged in order to rethink the performative potential of hand scroll paintings. The culmination of the research will result in the making of a contemporary scroll painting that depicts the journey of a transnational citizen—myself, as it intersects with travellers that represent varying degrees of graduated mobility. By revisiting this artform with current themes related to urbanization and the effects of globalization, Tracing the Last Mile positions the Golden Week journey as an entry point into the rippling, far-reaching effects of globalization.