Gao Brothers are crazy,crazy,cray,crazy!!!
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[楼主] artnewsgirl 2013-08-01 17:01:11

    ‘Mao ideas permeate the blood of the nation, and a blood poison is as difficult to eradicate as a virus’: A Q&A with The Gao Brothers

    The Gao Brothers, Qiang and Zhen, with their sculpture Miss Mao:"Compared to the evil and violence of Mao himself, our representation of Mao is hardly outrageous or violent."
    Arsenal GalleryThe Gao Brothers, Qiang and Zhen, with their sculpture Miss Mao: "Compared to the evil and violence of Mao himself, our representation of Mao is hardly outrageous or violent."

    China has a tendency to embody a lot about our world in its macro microcosm, and perhaps nowhere has that been more true than in the art world. Mirroring the country’s own rapid modernization, Chinese artists have gone from unknowns to worldwide superstars in the space of 20 years, and the nature of making engaged, provocative works in the middle of an authoritarian country has put many of them at the centre of debates on the artist’s role in society. As part of Like Thunder Out of China, showing now at Toronto’s Arsenal gallery, The Gao Brothers’ Miss Mao is a striking take one of China’s preeminent figures, and some indication of the provocative role of art in a country that is slow to shake off its authoritarian leanings. Through a translator, the Post spoke with Qiang Gao about Miss Mao and the role of artists in modern China.

    The totalitarian regime did not end with Mao’s death and the rise of totalitarian capitalism has not produced any fundamental change

    Your journey, from rural China to internationally exhibited artists, in some way mirrors China’s rapid rise of the past few decades. How did the two of you come to the visual arts? What kind of opportunities did you have, generally, that earlier generations of your family didn’t?

    Our grandfather was an engineer, and our father was a school principal, shortly before his death, he became a factory worker. Since his father died early, we were raised mostly by our mother who took charge of our education. When we were young, our mother’s health was poor and since she had six sons to bring up, she did not go out to work and stayed at home to educate us, taking precious care of our lives. Mother was tough, she had a big heart, was generous and a broad-minded person, her way of thinking was both traditional and liberal-minded. She used simple things to teach us about Chinese traditional Chinese ethics and culture. For example: “Do unto others, do not impose on others”: the Confucian ideal of benevolence. Forget injuries, never forget kindness. When there is difficulty, the gentleman relies on himself not on others, etc.

    Early education and life has a subtle influence on one. Older Brother Gao (Gao Zhen) started to study painting formally in 1972, but our family faced economic and political difficulties, he was unable to continue his studies. He never graduated from high school and as a dropout was forced to start a harsh life as a worker.  At the same time, he began working with our relative, painter Zhang Dengtang (at the Jinan Painting Academy) as learning traditional landscape painting. … Gao Zhen was admitted to Shandong School of Traditional Chinese Painting, and in 1981, became a professional specialized landscape painter, but later had a great change of heart.  He felt traditional Chinese painting could not express the complexity of the inner soul. He did some research into Western philosophy, literature and art album and found his own way of expressing himself, his style.

    We actually became ‘prisoners of the state.’ We could not obtain a passport more than a decade, were prohibited to go abroad

    It wasn’t until 1985, when I graduated from college, that we began to collaborate artistically. In 1989, we participated in a project by critics Li Xianting and Gao Lu, the first Chinese modern art exhibition, It wasn’t so much the exhibition itself as something else, the response of people.  Because it was China’s first large-scale modern art exhibition, a huge wave of people attended. Our piece was entitled Midnight Mass, a group of huge inflatable objects which represented the sexual organs. The audience’s response was very strong, some were angry, some were excited, people had never seen such a work of art and even said that labelled it “blasphemous.” In the Chinese art world at that time, people thought we wanted shock value.

    The 1989 Chinese Contemporary Art Exhibition had a tremendous impact on Chinese art.
 But for us the greatest impact is not the exhibition itself, but because the exhibition was the cause of another event.  While we were participating in the exhibition, we occasionally intervened as part of the intellectual elite taking a political stand. We put together this Wei Jingsheng bar event to aid the political activist and prisoner, which later led to his much-anticipated released, after visiting him twice in prison. Wei Jingsheng then came to Jinan, our hometown, asking us to join him and Huang Rui  (the founder of 798 art district) in planning an exhibition of modern art in Japan and South Korea, but soon after that we actually became “prisoners of the state.” We could not obtain a passport more than a decade, were prohibited to go abroad, which had a big influence on our international art activities. In 2001, we were invited to the 49th Venice Biennale to do a large-scale performance during the opening ceremony. It was not possible. We reached Rome only in 2003 when we were invited to participate in the International Photography Festival and the ban on our passports was lifted.

    Arsenal Gallery
    Arsenal GalleryThe Gao Brothers

    How do you view the role of an artist in society, and most specifically, the role of an artist in Chinese society today? For you, why is art the best way to reflect on the world around you?
    An artist’s role in society is an artistic way to present a real world corresponds to the spiritual world, the artist created the spiritual world is a reflection of the real world is not just a mirror, he holds it up to the world and sees the changes in the real world and more than that the necessity and possibility of those changes. The social role of the artist is the same in every country. We do not know if art is the best way of transforming society but for the time being, we have no other way.

    There isn’t a Chinese person free of the “Mao” disease … [it] made people into political radicals but mental ignoramuses

    I was quite struck by your piece Miss Mao, in particular its sexual connotations. What does Mao represent to you, and what are your intentions with the piece? Pia described it as something like every Chinese person’s subliminal feelings about Mao: in what ways does Miss Mao reflect things people can’t or don’t normally say about Mao?

    Compared to the evil and violence of Mao himself, our representation of Mao is hardly outrageous or violent. The chest and added breasts of Mao are important for two reasons. First, the Maoist political propaganda machine has a monopoly on what is said. They promote Mao as the Chinese Communist Party hero, the people’s great savior, their god. CCP’s propaganda machine’s favorite song is a  “red” folk song whose lyrics read: “I will let the Communist Party be my mother.” Now, if the CCP wants to act as a mother, let it. Miss Mao is equipped with a pair of breasts, resembling that of a mother’s. But this is also a propaganda lie, so we also give Miss Mao Pinocchio’s nose. Miss Mao is not just a visual joke, but a satire of the party system. We have created Miss Mao representing the propaganda machine and the party system, referring as well to ideology, brainwashing.

    There isn’t a Chinese person free of the “Mao” disease, not even in our own family. Since 1949, Mao ignited the state machine, controlled the education of the people, engineered people’s thoughts, steered Chinese people’s minds, their brains, filled it full with Maoist precepts, and with those precepts made people into political radicals but mental ignoramuses. Since Mao’s death, it is true that there have been a few changes in the economy, but as far as politics are concerned, the same old party cronies under Mao, the same old totalitarian regime remains, nothing has fundamentally changed. The post-Mao era gives the impression that the Mao era has passed, China has become very modern, but actually it is the same totalitarian Communist China that existed during the Cultural Revolution and the Tiananmen massacre, after that holocaust, and it is now a specific, phantom reality, that of the market economy.

    Mao ideas permeate the blood of the nation, and a blood poison is as difficult to eradicate as a virus

    And we know that Mao is founder of that state , the pioneer of totalitarian regimes, Mao ideas permeate the blood of the nation, and a blood poison is as difficult to eradicate as a virus. Today’s ruling clique has always insisted on guarding Mao’s patriarchal authority, basking in Mao’s political legacy. The totalitarian regime did not end with Mao’s death and the rise of totalitarian capitalism has not produced any fundamental change. After all, Mao, Mao China is when when the future depends on a presence not present, the dominant ideology, red thinking. For China to exist, the nation must continue possessing and  plundering national wealth.

    Arsenal Gallery
    Arsenal GalleryThe Gao Brothers' Miss Mao

    The Chinese people today seem peaceful on the surface, but in reality, it is a continuing humanitarian catastrophe, there is a sexiness to modern life,  but a lurking aggressiveness, an untold complexity. The CCP after the Cultural Revolution for its own interests, did not fundamentally negate Mao, as a result Mao has not died “easily.”

    Lately, many who are not satisfied with the political reality are looking to the roots and political structures, not at the policies Mao implemented when he was leader. The Chinese have a saying: “We cannot use the previous 30 years to negate the last 30 years, nor can we use the past 30 years of history to negate the first 30 years.” The CCP has been maintaining its dictatorship through the continuous deification of Mao. That is why we have been insisting about making a “Back off Mao,” 去毛,  “to eliminate Mao,” we have  created the work of Miss Mao for fundamental reasons, persistently criticizing Mao to prove more clearly that that is what the Chinese people really need.

    It is a test period, no freedom, no human rights, politics with no humanity, but it cannot continue for long

    What do you think China must remember of its history as it moves into its future? Are you optimistic about that future, and what role artists might play in shaping it?
    For the Chinese people and for the country itself, to remember one’s history is very important. In China, forgetting history is a grave problem, very complex, a complicated sort of chaos reigns, especially as far as the last 100 years are concerned. The KMT maintain that Chinese democracy was born from the courageous resistance movement against the Japanese, and put in place a democratic constitution immediately following the victory against the Japanese.

    Truth has been masked by the CCP and even deliberately tampered with. To restore the truth, historical truth a lot of work is needed. Luckily, now there is the internet, people are working to clarify the issues. We have no reason not to be optimistic about China’s future. It is a test period, no freedom, no human rights, politics with no humanity, but it cannot continue for long. Artists in this way can be catalysts and play a role in this wider transformation.

    The Gao Brothers’ responses were translated by Pia Copper-Ind, and have been edited and condensed.

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[沙发:1楼] guest 2013-09-04 16:55:36
[板凳:2楼] guest 2013-09-04 17:03:05
[地板:3楼] guest 2013-09-29 03:38:05
[4楼] guest 2014-03-20 00:11:43

Brothers in Arts

November 15, 2013

Evading Chinese censorship, the Gao Brothers challenge authority through sculpture, painting, performance, and photography.

Beijing-based artists Gao Qiang and Gao Zhen (born in the Shandong province of China) are known as the Gao Brothers. They have collaborated on projects in a wide variety of media including sculpture, painting, performance, and photography since 1985. Much of their work is inspired by their family’s experience during China’s 1966-1967 Cultural Revolution. In 1968, brothers’ father was arrested as a counter-revolutionary, and days later, died in custody.

The Gao Brothers’ work ranges from the political and satirical to questions of material and spiritual spaces, and takes a humanitarian stance that questions the role government and the individual play within contemporary Chinese society. They are not afraid to create controversial and contextually loaded works, such as “Arresting Prostitute.” Depicting Mao has played a central role in their career. The Chinese authorities frequently censor their exhibitions because they portray the wrongdoings of China’s past, in works like “Mao’s Guilt.” The Gao Brothers are in a constant game of cat and mouse to exhibit and show their art.

Samuel Jablon for Guernica
Miss Mao No.2. Painted fiberglass sculpture, 210x128x125cm, 2006
Standard Hair Style-Mao Zedong, Deng Xiaoping, Jiang Zemin, Hu Jintao. Oil on canvas 300x385cm x 4, 2009
Mao's Guilt. Bronze sculpture, life-size, 2009
The Execution of Christ. Bronze sculpture, life-size, 2009
Miss Mao Trying to Poise Herself at the Top of Lenin's Head. Stainless steel scupture, 650x600x442cm, 2009
Double Portrait - Hitler. Oil on canvas, 300x400cm x2, 2007
Double Portrait - The Dalai Lama. Oil on canvas, 400 x 300cm x 2, 2010
Arresting Prostitute. Painted bronze sculpture, life-size, 2007
Three Narrations of the Death of Chinese Citizen Wang Qingbo. Oil on canvas, 300x400cm x 3, 2011
The Forever Unfinished Building No.4. 100x296cm, 2008
Goodbye Tiananmen. Photo, 120x150cm, 2007
Ghost Image - The Raft of the Medusa & Tiananmen Square Protests of 1989. Oil on canvas, 300x400cm, 2011
Ghost Image - Liberty Leading the People and the Tiananmen Square Protests of 1989. Oil on canvas, 300x400cm, 2011
Project of Borrowing the Statue of Liberty. 208x100cm, 2012
A New World of Nuclear Cloud Shape. Photo, 248x180cm, 2008

[5楼] guest 2014-06-23 17:49:18
Art that takes Risks

by Abraham Ritchie

In the United States, you can make a sculpture of former President George W. Bush’s head atop a phallus without fear of governmental reprisal, as was demonstrated recently at Western Exhibitions. In the recent Westboro Baptist Church judgment, the United States Supreme Court has ensured that even the most disgusting and worthless acts of free speech are protected. And if as an artist your freedom of speech and expression is stifled, the art world will not be silent about it, as the recent David Wojnarowicz debacle demonstrated, and you may be even be entitled to compensation if your rights are infringed upon. However provocative or critical of the government your artwork may be, in the U.S. you do not have to worry about government stooges coming after you personally. Nuts like Kathleen Folden, maybe.

This is not the case for artists in China, and that’s what gives the Gao Brothers' (artists Gao Zhan and Gao Qiang) show at Walsh Gallery a sense of risk. The Gao Brothers’ exhibitions have been shut down and censored by the Chinese government before. Coming from the Kemper Museum in Kansas City, this abbreviated, but smartly installed, presentation of “Grandeur & Catharsis” has as its centerpiece The Execution of Christ, 2009, a life-size grouping of eight bronze figures, with seven Mao Zedongs, most aiming rifles at a Christ figure.

The Gao Brothers. The Execution of Christ, 2009. Bronze, liver of sulfur patina. Edition of 2/4. Image courtesy of Walsh Gallery and the artists.

At first I had the inevitable eye roll. It’s easy to get bored by the Mao imagery that attends much of Chinese art, but at the same time, a Western audience is very privileged to be bored by Mao, since for decades the “Great Leader” Chairman Mao terrified, threatened and killed his people. In contrast to other artists, the Gao Brothers deploy Mao imagery in a highly critical fashion. It is this critical edge that sets the work apart.

One could write-off this sculpture as simply cheesy, and it does have that aspect that sometimes accompanies pop art. It’s fairly obvious, blatantly provocative, mines art history for its form, and the liver of sulfur patina says “antique” or “sculpture” much too loudly. But simple dismissal is in many ways much more easy than actually looking at the piece and giving it some consideration.

The Execution of Christ may be obvious and provocative. It’s immediately noticeable that the arrangement quotes Manet’s The Execution of Maximilian, which is in turn itself quoting Goya’s The Third of May 1808. Similarly, the provocative element is also based in history. Christianity is now officially tolerated in China, but during Mao’s era Christians were openly persecuted, lending the provocation an uneasy historical edge. Even if Christianity is now allowed, there are rules and prescriptions that govern it, which has led to a thriving underground Christianity scene that the authorities will sometimes crack down on. The persecution of Christians, or other religions, has not entirely ceased; there is no true freedom of religion.

The Gao Brothers. Family Memory of Gao Brothers 1969-1999, 1999. Photograph, diptych. Edition of 10. Image courtesy of Walsh Gallery and the artists.

The brown liver of sulfur patina of the sculpture I first interpreted as an attempt to make the sculpture appear older. But on further viewing that seemed incorrect. The bayonets of the rifles have a shining, chrome-like finish, which would be at odds with a desire to age the sculpture through a patina application. Instead the brown of the sculpture seems to nod towards the uniform of the worker that was prescribed by the government. This is reinforced by the work immediately across from the sculpture, Family Memory of Gao Brothers 1969-1999, 1999. This photographic diptych shows an early family portrait where everyone is wearing drab proletariat worker clothing, coupled with a later portrait where the family is outfitted in Western-style clothing. Ironically, in the later portrait two sitters wear identical shirts suggesting that one uniform has been traded in for another. Significantly these portraits are envisioned as hanging over Tiananmen Gate, instead of Mao’s portrait that has occupied that space. Therefore the brown of the sculpture seems more a referent rather than an artificial aging technique.

There are real risks being taken by these artists and they point to the real risks that people in China seeking freedom face daily, need I even mention the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo who is currently in prison for advocating human rights advances? I think if a Western audience saw more critical artwork from China, like that of the Gao Brothers, we would be more aware of the human rights struggle there and perhaps it would seem more urgent.

-Abraham Ritchie, Senior Editor ArtSlant: Chicago

A catalog for the Kemper Museum's "Grandeur & Catharsis" is available for purchase at the Walsh Gallery.

Posted by Abraham Ritchie on 2011-03-14
[6楼] guest 2014-07-16 16:51:24


Gao Qiang and Gao Zhen, aged 48 and 54, have been working together since 1985, creating politically charged pieces that unabashedly criticize the Communist government, a theme with personal significance on account of the persecution their family during the Cultural Revolution. Though the artists are known for their garish busts of cackling Maos and Hieronymus Bosch-like photo manipulations, “Portraits” at the China Art Archives & Warehouse—curated by Ai Weiwei and Italian curator Achille Bonita Oliva—is surprisingly subdued.

Indeed, the works in the exhibition, massive oil-painted diptychs of Hitler, Marx, Osama Bin Laden, Saddam Hussein, Jiang Qing, Kim Jong-il and others, are tactful, even demure. Iconic blown-up images of these historical leaders are juxtaposed with their more innocent, younger selves: Hitler as a startled child; Jiang as an aspiring actress; Bin Laden as an adorable infant. Their faces are rendered in horizontal and diagonal bands of gradated color, creating the effect of flickering, old color TVs or halftone newspaper printing processes. From a distance one sees the faces with a familiar clarity, while up close they become blurs of color. The harsh modern vision in black and white on the right against the muted, rose-tinted past on the left creates a stark contrast.

In the curatorial statement, Oliva writes about the Gao Brothers’ knack for using the human figure as a disturbing presence, “a wedge, an opening, between the serenity of daily social communication and the turbulence generated by the artistic action.” In these works, the Gao Brothers’ use of the juxtaposition highlights the way the media can selectively portray an individual. It is surprising how innocent a baby Bin Laden looks or how hopeful Jiang Qing once seemed—a reaction that makes the viewer question the social constructs of celebrity and notoriety. In these monumental paintings of vilified figures, one can find an element of humanity.

One portrait stands out from the rest in its apparent lack of notoriety. A young, bewildered Chinese man stares out at the viewer, juxtaposed against a full-body portrait of the same man as a dignified military officer. Some will recognize him as Yang Jia, a Beijing resident who was severely beaten by Shanghai police officers in 2007 for riding an unlicensed bicycle and later stabbed six officers to death in retribution. A cult hero to many young Chinese for standing up to the government, he was executed in November 2008. With its biting irony, this portrait of Yang as an upstanding citizen disrupts the “serenity of daily social communication” more than any other painting in the exhibition, adding a fierce edge to a proficient if otherwise somewhat superficial show.
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[7楼] guest 2014-09-10 08:46:34