Sunday, February 21, 2010

ABC Wednesday: F is for Farmers

Continuous with our last blog, we are showing here another "creation" of Cai Guo-Qiang. Again, this work is not his usual dynamite and fireworks, and it is not even by him strictly speaking. The original piece is called "Rent Collection Courtyard" was an art/propaganda piece created during the Chinese Culture Revolution to highlight the horrors of Chinese feudal past. In 1996, for the Venice Biennale, Cai brought in dozens of Chinese academically trained sculptors to recreate the piece, which consisted of 100 life-size figures. It won the Leone d"Oro Prize.

The figures were sculptured by clay and they were not baked, thus not permanent. Many of the figures were cracked or disintegrated due to drying and due to assembling and disassembling. This situation added another dimension to the exhibition.

The gentleman in the first picture seems to be benign enough looking over three women. From the front, his mean facial expression is shocking. He represents the agent of the land owner, he is holding a bull-wip in his hand with a mean looking dog on his side.

Here is a farmer. He is crushed (literally) and totally bending over by the heavy weight of the bag that he carried on his back. Does the weight of the bag represent the weight of thousands of years of the past of China's rural community? But look at his expression, he does not show any resentment or hatred, just blank.

But he looks sad, from his hat, he should be a communist party member. But why does he look sad? Was he caught by the KMT officials?

He looks helpless, he has the typical costume of a clerk working for the land owner. He is caught in the struggle between the land owning class and the working mass.

Here is the revolutionary, handsome, determined man who is filled with hatred.

Finally the land owner, looking distracted, seems to be pondering on the end of several thousand years of the Chinese rural life ending under his watch. He is about to be marched to the village courtyard to be publicly prosecuted, sentenced and executed. A local hooligan is watching behind his back.

This is the most haunting figure. Half of the boy's body is already disintegrated and is let on the ground in the courtyard of the museum under the rain. His empty glass eyes staring at us.

The original exhibition in Venice set off a prolonged debate on Culture Revolution, propaganda, art and originality. Twenty to thirty of the figures are exhibited now at a special exhibition of Cai Guo-Qiang at Taipei Fine Art Museum.

I normally do not like to photograph art work. If I photographed a painting and worked on it in the Photoshop, should I say that I created an even better image than the original? But for this exhibition, I do feel differently. Did I catch the meaning that the original sculptors tried to convey or did I infuse my own feeling of the era into these images?

Be sure to click on the images to enlarge them to see the details of the sculptures.

To see more entries of ABC Wednesday click here.


amatamari© said...

Wonderful reportage and thanks for sharing!

Jay said...

I think this was a great post! ABC Wednesday doesn't have to be all fluff and happiness. These farmers are well worth the spot.

So do I think if you photoshop a piece of artwork you've improved on it? Not necessarily, but it's an interpretation of the art isn't it, so you must add a little bit of yourself. Not perhaps an improvement on the original, just different.

On behalf of the team, thanks for taking part in ABC Wednesday this week! :)

Roger Owen Green said...

These are GREAT SHOTS. No, they needn't be happy always.

shu said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
shu said...

I have seen his exhibition at Guggenheim in New York. He has a large body of work. Part of exhibition inlcude the ones you have here - they are vivid and painful to see. But art is meant to enlighten people. There was a boat made of reeds full of arrows. My kids reconginzed it right away from the story I told them about the clever way KuMing borrowed arrows from his enemy.


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