It may be because I’m mired in CultRev art, but I can’t help but see a marked similarity between RSC publicity for David Tennant’s Hamlet, and Mao Goes to Anyuan…
August 6, 2008
January 17, 2008
According to the BBC, the French car marker, Citroen, has apologised for an advertisement featuring Mao which ran in the Spanish newspaper El Pais. What I find interesting about this is the response of, presumably, young(er) commentators. Given that their parents and grandparents are likely to have suffered to some extent during the Cultural Revolution, their support for Mao seems surprising. Perhaps the unwillingness, or sheer inability (due to trauma and fear of repercussions) of the older generation to discuss the human aspects of the Cultural Revolution, has created a chasm between the experiences of those who lived through it, and the popular imagining of China under Mao? Would a ‘remembrance’ museum of the Cultural Revolution make a difference?
December 27, 2007
Here’s a fascinating little online exhibition from the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney that charts the development of Chinese revolutionary dress, and in particular the Mao suit (zhifu). It’s part of a larger virtual exhibition entitled Evolution and Revolution: Chinese dress 1700s-1990s. Check out the page on the sartorial ideology of the Cultural Revolution as well. When I was much younger I desperately wanted to be a costume historian when I grew up. Perhaps there’s still a chance!
To commemorate the Great Helmsman’s 114th birthday, Wu Suizhou, whom CCTV describes as a ‘folk artist’, has produced a set of papercuts. The photographs on the CCTV website aren’t very clear (Xinhua is better), but it looks like he has chosen classic propagandist modes of representations of Mao and other communist icons as his models. Indeed, there’s nothing very new here. In the bottom right-hand corner in black is a papercut showing Mao, Lenin, Marx and Engels in profile. This is a copy of similar papercuts available during the Cultural Revolution. (The British Museum and Musee du Quai Branly have examples in their collections.)
July 21, 2007
…this time available from Good Orient. Isn’t the featured messenger bag, the one that got Cameron Diaz in so much trouble recently? Just goes to show the wealth of connotations this sort of material engenders.
May 24, 2007
This is fascinating. A survey carried out by a Chinese film magazine to identify westerners’ attitudes and impressions of Chinese film. No British respondents here, but plenty of Europeans, so it gives a compelling snapshot of the images of China propagated by film.
Several points caught my eye:
- the confusion of Japanese films with Chinese ones, and mis-identification of Hollywood productions (i.e. Memoirs of a Geisha) with China (presumably causing much chagrin!)
- Kung-fu features heavily, in films watched, Chinese actors identified and genres.
- But, many respondents were able to name a number of Chinese directors, which is interesting. Could you do for same for Hollywood? Perhaps Chinese films are largely viewed as ‘art-house’, meaning that they become more identified with the director’s vision than the cast?
- It’s unsurprising that Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon was so popular amongst respondents, as it was – perhaps – the first true ‘cross-over’ film (i.e. distributed in the West, and shown in mainstream cinemas) since the kung-fu mania of the 70s. Shame that not more than 2% cited In the Mood for Love though. That has to be one of my favourite films.
- When asked ‘when you hear the term ‘Chinese film’, what is the first thing you think of?’ and the question about ‘Chinese characteristics’, it is – again – hardly surprising that people single out martial arts and ancient China (the predominant features of the vast majority of the films that have achieved popularity at the box-office in the last decade).
- However, when asked what they would most like to see in Chinese films, a much larger number (though still only 8% of respondents) said ‘Mao Zedong and the red Chinese revolution’, suggesting there is some ‘appetite’ out there for finding out more about twentieth century China (which museums could latch onto?).
- Another set of illuminatory responses are to the question, ‘What is your impression of China, from your own country’s cinema’. Apart from those who choose not to respond, the majority of people cited martial artists, gangsters and illegal immigrants. In addition Chinese people are mysterious and ‘never change their way of life’, and further down the list, 2% of respondents have mentioned queues and opium smoking.
- But, when respondents were asked, ‘which Chinese figure are you most familiar with’, the majority (31%) said Mao Zedong, possibly because most were interviewed in China where Mao’s image appears to still be ubiquitous?
As the ‘commenters’ say, there’s clearly some confusion about the origin of several of the actors cited, and between Taiwan and mainland China (which, let’s face it, probably makes the Chinese authorities quite happy!).
Is that Keira Knightley in a dreadful wig on the cover, or just someone who looks vaguely like her?
May 14, 2007
As reported by – amongst others – The Peking Duck, a 35 year old man, Gu Hai’ou, was arrested on Saturday afternoon after throwing a burning torch at the monumental portrait of Mao that overlooks Tiananmen Square. The authorities have said that Gu is mentally ill and he has been taken into custody. The portrait – a new version, which had only been on display since October last year – suffered a small scorch mark and has already been replaced. No other details have been released at present.
What fascinates me is how quickly the damaged portrait was replaced, suggesting that the Chinese authorities readily anticipate that, from time-to-time, people will take out their frustrations on the Great Helmsman. Indeed, this isn’t the first time the portrait has been vandalised. The last, most infamous occasion, occurred during the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests, when a group of three young men threw paint-filled eggs at Mao’s image. The whole incident, and aftermath, has been documented in video by Kempton in Egging Chairman Mao.
Incidentally, the original painting on which the current Tiananmen portrait of Mao is based was set to be auctioned off last year, but internal pressure (i.e. ‘advice from the Government’) halted the sale. It is now ensconced at the National Museum in Beijing.
April 28, 2007
I love this!
Need to think of some way of incorporating it into a future presentation…