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In this “modern” day and age, “news” plays an important social role in constructing our lives. News informs our knowledge and worldview. People are accustomed to receiving and basing judgments on news. It is impossible to escape the “reality” constructed by news.

Events on the news have become the lens through which we view the world. In the current global cultural milieu, people unconsciously accept the mode of “news” and have become invariably educated, conditioned and even controlled by “news.”

While China’s dynamic economic developments make constant headlines, its social developments lag comparative behind. Yet, economic “news” dominates our daily lives. To some extent, “news” has taken on a life of its own.

In the wake of the invention and widespread use of photography and movie technology, photographs have become an increasingly important means to disseminate news. Through the news format, original images are manipulated to represent a different reality, a second reality. This new reality informs our sense of judgment and worldview and remolds us in the process.

Given China’s socialist background, a political aspect is an indispensable component of contemporary culture. “News” has come to embody such concepts as “historical responsibility,” “national consciousness” and “collectivism.” These concepts sustain the function as well as the purpose of “news.” Ideology has become an important factor for news images. Consequently, news images have become the visual expression of politics. Therefore, we can call this aesthetic “political visual aesthetics.”

The works of all eight artists featured in this exhibition are related with “news” and news images. Yin Xiuzhen’s “Where is the brake?” dramatizes a traffic accident and uses the means of “news” to reflect the social status quo of high-speed development.

Zhao Bandi uses dramatized news events to transform himself into a social visual symbol. For this exhibition, he creates a fictitious one-man Olympic Games and turns a governmental undertaking into an individual performance. In reality, the will and desire of the government versus the individual are different, even if the content is identical. In attempting to parallel his individual performance to governmental actions, Zhao Bandi magnifies the individual and forms a new liminal space between individual and society.

The images of socialist era politics reappear in the works of Li Yousong, Zhang Dali and Yang Shaobin. Li Yousong uses the glorified socialist campaign imagery of the development era to show how images can be imbued with new meaning over time. Void of their original political content, the images now display a Utopian ideal of collectivism.

Yang Shaobin selects clips from old films and news images to record his own memories of that period, forming an individual memory style.

Zhang Dali juxtaposes doctored versions of the same news image and reveals a general aesthetic attitude in political visual culture: though derived from life, art is ultimately great than life.

Song Dong, Wang Qingsong and Wu Xiaojun use news and news related imagery and symbols to deconstruct “news” and its main proponent: national politics.

Song Dong’s piece involves using water to write the time on two boxes of soil, one from Mainland China and the other from Hong Kong during the 1997 Hand Over ceremony. Time was all the existed during the live broadcast.

Wang Qingsong compiles various political and advertising slogans from the news into a dump. He takes the final product (slogans) to create a new product that deconstructs and subverts the function of the original. Wu Xiaojun’s work embodies this method as well. With the use of neon lights and the borrowed font of two national news media (CNN and CCTV), Wu Xiaojun composes a “WC” sign.

Today’s news represents a superficial “reality” or “Second Realism.” This reality is based on images and interpretations of images. The interpretive nature of this “Second Realism” makes it a political arena. In our midst of vying to remold concepts of the future, we have unfolded a new political visual aesthetics.


March 2006