Mao lives

Since long we would have liked to write about the Opletal exhibition, the hitherto largest European exhibition on the Chinese Cultural Revolution (1966-76) which ended in Vienna in last November, and this post is partly an introduction to it. The exhibition mainly focused on the relics of the Cultural Revolution, and pushed into the background the photos. So now we would like to present three series of photos connected with the Revolution, taken by three recognized Chinese artists. All three were exposed in the 百年印象 Băinián Yìnxiàng, “A Hundred Years of Impressions” photo gallery of Beijin in recent years.

翁乃强 Wēng Năiqiáng (1936) was born in Indonesia, and arrived at China after the Communist takeover at the age of 15. He graduated in painting and photography at the Beijing Academy of Fine Arts, and during all the Cultural Revolution he worked as a photo journalist. Since 1993 he teaches at the Academy of Fine Arts. His color (!) photos taken for the central journals depicted on a high professional level the iconic scenes and gestures of the Cultural Revolution, from swinging the little red book through the marching of the Revolutionary Guards to the revolutionary theater performances.

晓庄 Xiăo Zhuāng (1933) went to guerilla fight against the Kuomintang at the age of 16. From 1950 she worked for the newspaper of the army, and from 1952 for the Xin Hua News Agency. She held several high posts at various newspapers, and from 1980 she was chief redactor of the journal of Chinese photographers. Her pictures show the same iconic scenes obviously through a female eye, very sensitively, focusing on the single persons and on the sight rather than on the political theme. These pictures are not the didactic propaganda illustrations we are accustomed to. These pictures are very good photos. And therefore very dangerous ones.

The recurrent inscription: 毛主席万岁 Măo Zhŭxí wànsuì “Long live (verbally: Ten thousand years) Chairman Mao!”

王彤 Wáng Tóng (1967) graduated at the Arts College of Henan. He started to take photos in 1989, and today he is the director of photography of the Chinese National Geographic. He took the following photos back in 1996 as a beginner, on one of the last visual memory of the Cultural Revolution living with us, the Mao representations surviving on the walls. Probably in the last minute. The images and inscriptions which did not disappear of themselves by the time, were destroyed together with the wall and with all old Beijing by the heirs of Mao and the Cultural Revolution.

1 comentario:

Studiolum dijo...

In reply to a question arrived on Facebook:

Q: and what about the victims?

A: The question of the victims is obviously eliminated from the two first series (and the soft, humane tones of the second even seem to deny its relevance). The third one with its decadent landscapes and milieus implicitly includes the reference to them, or at least the enormous sacrifices made in vain.

But don’t forget that the question of the victims is still largely a taboo topic in China, and the last ones to explicitly refer to it will be three prestigious “court photographers”.