Wednesday, May 18, 2011

“An International Discourse on New Chinese Video and Photography”

This article is actually a transcription of a panel which took place in 2004 in San Diego about new Chinese video and photography. Britta Erickson, the moderator, first starts the discussion with a brief history of Chinese photography and video. Early Chinese photography was mainly used for propaganda during the Cultural Revolution. In the 1980s is when China’s avant-garde gained popularity is also when photography gained popularity. Initially, photography was merely a method of documenting performance art. But, artists soon realized that their method of documentation is an art in itself.
After looking at the article’s accompanying photographs which were shown at the discussion, I think some of the photographs raise the question of what is the boundary between art photography and propaganda or advertisement photography. A picture’s intent is to capture a specific moment in time, and from that moment the viewer can usually piece together the story, which is what I think art photography aims to do. But there is one picture which has a nearly naked Chinese man, sitting cross-legged on a giant cabbage leaf with the word Mcdonld’s and logo stamped into his chest. His head is tilted upward and both hands are touching his chest right under the logo. The background is a blurry city skyline at night, that has clearly been photoshopped in. What is this image trying to convey? The title, Thinker, does not suggest much besides the obvious, given his body language.

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