GALLERY VISIT || Pilar Corrias
'Witness' is a group exhibition of four Chinese artists who explore the various responses to change in urban environments in China's recent past, present, and future. The exhibition involved a range of works, from 2D to 4D. I was intrigued by this exhibition, because all four artists are Chinese. Although the theme is not exactly really related to what I am looking at for my final project, I thought that it would be helpful to see how Chinese artists view their own country. There were a lot of abstract art- the pieces didn't necessarily convey political messages, which is completely understandable, considering the mass surveillance going on in China. I wasn't too inspired by the art I saw there, but I found myself to be drawn towards the bottom level of the gallery, which is where the 4D work is installed. I heard Chinese music and immediately wanted to go downstairs. I suppose I felt a part of me within the gallery- a part of my family, my culture, my identity- I sat and watched the video piece for quite a while. Not much happened in the piece, it consisted of footage of Chinese people dancing in a Chinese ballroom, but I felt a certain sense of connection and familiarity with the piece. I suppose to some extent, I am homesick. This gallery made me realise how much I care about china and how much I truly and genuinely identify as a 'Chinese'- I do not identify as a 'Chinese' as a political statement, but I do not hate the country. In fact, I love the contry, I simply hate the government. This was an important realisation. I found that this is one of the reasons why I am so driven to create political artwork that highlights the people's oppression from the Chinese government.
GALLERY VISIT || Red, Blue, White : Global Colours - GettyImages
This gallery was one of the galleries I felt resonated with my latest work most- although it is photography based, the exhibition is based on colour and the way they are interpreted. I found that this related to my work in terms of my use of colours in my latest work, focusing on the national colours of China: Red and yellow. in the press release of this gallery, I found a quote that I was immediately drawn to- it was exactly what I said when I was analysing the Isle of Dogs exhibition I saw at 180 the Strand.
'The world's patchwork quilt of political colours highlights the mutable and contradictory nature of colour symbolism. Red, for instance, evokes left-wing ideologies such as communism, except in the United States(...)'
To have a reliable source (GettyImages) reinforce my interpretation of the symbolism of the colour red in totalitarian states allowed me to be more confident with using the colour within my final piece to symbolise certain ideas related to left-wing ideologies and the Chinese Communist Party. I was really glad I walked past and looked at this exhibition.
SITED THE GALLERY VISIT || HereNow : Outcome Exhibition
I visited the HereNow: Outcome Exhibition at the Space Studios. The exhibition was a group show, where artists questioned the functional and socio-political experiences of new forms of virtual worlds, considering their potential to reconfigure the way we interact with reality as we know it. Artists incorporated emergent technologies and hacked electronic devices such as gaming, Virtual Reality, AI, and CCTVs. The artists explored the role of the interface in relation to their respective practices. I found this exhibition to be really intriguing- there were a lot of audio based artwork, as well as interactive artwork, involving VR. I found that this resonates with my current work, as I am looking into and striving to create technology-based interactive art too. I noticed that audio-based work is becoming increasingly popular in contemporary art- I found this point to be intriguing and exciting, as most of my works are based heavily on audio.
EXHIBITION VISIT || Superbugs : The Fight for Our Lives
I visited the science museum in order to gain more insight on how bacteria are displayed in museums and for possible inspiration on how I could further develop my work and possible ways to layout my final piece. I previously researched about which museums currently have exhibitions and displays of bacteria in London- to my luck, the science museum had a new exhibit called 'Superbugs', an exploration of the war between antibiotic-resistant bacteria and antibiotics. I was only really interested in how they displayed the bacteria, although it was interesting to find out about how society is responding to the enormous challenge of antibiotic resistance through scientific research and advanced technology.
The exhibition had one section with long, tube-like lightboxes, each featuring one bacteria sample, with descriptions of the bacteria. I found that I really liked how it was exhibited- the aesthetics of the display was very clinical, very sleek and professional, and looked very 'official'- it gave off the impression that it was 'real', straight away. Of course, this was an essential component of this exhibition, as the information shown in the exhibition were indeed real and factual. I found that one component that made up this impression was the language used in the descriptions- corporate jargon and impersonal writing were found in all the texts, and scientific names of the bacteria were written in italics in the text and next to the bacteria sample. The fact that the text was written using scientific jargon that was incomprehensible to people who have no experience in the medical field contributed to the authenticity of the descriptions- people believe facts that are thrown at them despite not understanding them. I feel that this idea responds to one of the underlying themes of my entire project- people comprehend what they are able to/have access to and form limited and inaccurate judgments.
I found that I really wanted my final piece to be interpreted in such a way too- although it is a made up disease, I wanted the audience to believe that it is real.
Visiting this museum has given me direction as to how I will possibly develop my piece and how I want the audience to interpret my piece- by being the observer in the exhibition, I was able to clearly understand the impressions and interpretations of the audience, and how my audience will view my piece.
GALLERY VISIT || Isle of Dogs - 180 The Strand
Today, I visited an exhibition called 'Isle of Dogs' at 180 The Strand, an exhibition that showcased the 3D sets of the animation film 'Isle of Dogs', directed by Wes Anderson which will be released late March, that the animating team created and utilised to create the stop-motion movie.
The movie is set in a dystopian future Japan- the government decides to banish all dogs onto an island due to an outbreak of biohazardous canine flu. Atari, the main character, hi-jacks a Junior-Turbo Prop and flies it to the Isle of Dogs in order to find his lost dog, Spots. Along with the help of 5 other canines that were banished to the Isle of Dogs, Atari attempts to find his long-lost guard dog, and the audience will get to find out the future of Atari, the 5 dogs, and the prefecture.
I thought that the exhibition was amazing. Once the viewer enters the exhibition, they are greeted by a life-size ramen shop that actually sells ramen for the visitors to sit down and enjoy. The ramen shop is built exactly like the ramen shop in the movie set- I found this to be a very clever way of advertising, but also a very clever way to force the audience to interact with the art piece and the film. Putting the audience into the perspective of the film, allowing them to have a taste (no pun intended lol) of dystopian future Japan, thus making the audience connect with the artwork showcased within the exhibition as well as the animation that is yet to be released.
Next, the viewer enters the exhibition to see the 3D props- the extraordinary detail in each prop and set that was created was unreal- I found it very interesting to be able to see how an entire animation can be created through the filming of a series of miniature 3D props.
There was one set that I was really drawn to- which was the set of the 'Megasaki Municipal Dome'. Firstly, I found the colour scheme of the set very interesting- it was dominated by the colour red, a colour of anger, but also a colour that is commonly associated with totalitarian states. This was just my personal interpretation- however, this thought was further reinforced with the massive photograph of Mayor Kobayashi in the centre of the Municipal Dome. This action shows that this man is of high power, that he is in control of the whole state- the framing of a leader's face in an important communal area can be found in several totalitarian states, most predominantly in China and the DPRK. This shoves the idea that he is the one charge down the throats of the citizens, a very propagandist action. Furthermore, in the corner of the photograph, there are small letters that say 'For the greater good of Megasaki City'- just this sentence alone enforces the idea of totalitarianism and manipulation of people's minds, disallowing the citizens to think for themselves, insisting that the mayor's ideologies are correct and that the citizens have no right to question him. I feel that this correlates strongly with my work- not just with the use of imagery, but also the use of language- both of these elements play important roles in propaganda, which is a theme and a topic I am currently exploring. It was interesting to see how similarly people portray totalitarian states, even within an animation set.
I also found it really interesting how the dystopian future is portrayed as a place that is almost no different to the present day- in most dystopian films and novels, the future is usually portrayed to be very techno-centric, or portrayed to be a near-uninhabitable place- however, this is not the case in this film, or at least what I have seen from the movie sets and the trailers. Instead, only ideologies have changed. This has given me a new perspective and interpretation of what a dystopian future may look like.
Although the medium of the work does not necessarily resonate with what I am currently exploring, and the way the artworks were displayed and presented didn't exactly correlate with my current work either, I definitely found the underlying theme of the movie to be worth exploring. The idea that an entire species was exiled in a dystopian future really intrigued me- What if that happened to Hong Kong people? The violent outbreak of disease within the film can be compared to Hong Kongers' realisation and self-awareness of how our futures are placed at risk due to the promptly inevitable governance and the ruling of the Chinese government. What if the Chinese government treated our ways of thinking as a 'disease' that could be spread?
I believe that the film does not hold much political significance, but I do believe that it can be interpreted in such way. As I am also exploring the theme of a dystopian future, I believe that this exhibition really helped me in regards of my perception of what a dystopian future may look like, and which directions and next steps I can take to further develop my work.
TUESDAY JULY 1 1999
boyfriends dad found this article when he was clearing the house
amazing that he's managed to keep this for 21 years
The persecution of Falun Gong
Falun Gong (法輪功) is a modern Chinese spiritual practice that combines meditation and qigong exercises with a moral philosophy centred on the tenets of truthfulness, compassion, and forbearance. Falun Gong was first founded and taught in 1992 in Northeastern China, by Li Hongzhi, the founder of the practice- its central notion revolves around the spiritual practice of Qigong (氣功), the 'discipline of the vital breath', a Chinese system of physical exercises and breathing control that is said to improve and promote one's health and spirituality.
Qigong was a very common practice in China, and was practised by the majority of the Chinese population. However, although the practice had a great number of high-level supporters, there were also critics of the practice- they condemned the practice by claiming that it was superstitious and regarded it as chicanery. The critics won over the state's support by the early 1990s, and the practice of Qigong plummetted. In an attempt to restore the popularity of Qigong, Li Hongzhi developed Falun Gong. Li claimed that he would install in his followers, purifying their bodies in another dimension and freeing them from bodily concerns. Falun Gong's popularity grew rapidly, and Li became one of the most charismatic and famous Qigong masters between 1992-1995. It was estimated that Falun Gong had 2 million to 60 million followers during this period.
Despite its controversy, most Falun Gong practitioners strongly believed that their beliefs and actions were legal- the practice was faced with media criticism and the spiritual practice of Falun Gong was once again challenged and detracted. In response to its criticism, Falun Gong followers protested unannounced and peacefully outside the CCP headquarters in Beijing. Thus, the persecution of Falun Gong began.
The Chinese government claimed that Falun Gong is a menace to society, that it is a superstitious, foreign-drive, tightly organised, dangerous group of meditators. They were also fearful of history repeating itself- that Falun Gong would turn out to be a religion-turned-rebellion. Falun Gong was labelled a 'heretical cult', and was deemed the greatest danger to state security since the 1989 student demonstration, which then led to the Tiananmen massacre.
The practitioners of Falun Gong would undergo 're-education', which was officially described to be 'A process of ideological reprogramming whereby practitioners are subjected to various methods of physical and psychological coercion until they recant their belief in Falun Gong' by the Chinese government.
James Ouyang was a persecuted practitioner of Falun Gong, and in an interview with the Washington Post, he described his experience as a prisoner. Practitioners were subjected to all forms of torture; they were beaten, shocked, electrocuted, stripped, interrogated, etc. Ouyang was tortured in ways previously mentioned for 7 days- then, he was forced to denounce Falun Gong's teaching by shouting into a wall for 3 days as he was beaten by the police. He was kept in jail for 10 days. Finally, his repudiation of Falun Gong was finally deemed sincere. After he left jail, he was forced to enter brainwashing classes for 20 days. He later graduated.
Practitioners had to sign 5 documents to prove that they have truly and sincerely denounced the teachings of Falun Gong:
- Guarantee to stop practising, 1doc
- Promise to sever all ties to practice, 1 doc
- Self-criticism documents critiquing their own behaviour and thinking, 2 docs
- Criticism of Falun Gong doctrine, 1 doc
Then, they must vilify Falun Gong on camera- the videos would then be used as propaganda to spread the message that Falun Gong is a heretical cult. Previously 're-educated' practitioners must then partake in the new transformation and re-education of new practitioners- they must take part in beating and torturing them to prove that they have renounced Falun Gong's teachings.
By researching about ways the Chinese government has oppressed religious groups of their own people, I have gained further insight and a clearer vision of what actions the Chinese government may/would take and how far they can go, realistically, to control their people. Reading this information has inspired me to further develop my work by creating a 'scheme' that would be implemented on Hong Kong citizens- a persecution of Hong Kongers who disobeyed the Chinese government. I called it the '30 Day Transformation Scheme', where test-takers would have to undergo 're-education', similar to practitioners of Falun Gong, and would have to denounce and recant their intentions of opposing the Chinese government through a torturous experience, just like Falun Gong practitioners. This information has also inspired my making of the 'test-takers results' and how the test-takers will be treated/punished if they didn't score a desirable mark. As aforementioned in my reflection page, I believe that this is a completely plausible outcome for Hong Kong. I now have a better understanding of how the Chinese government treats those who disobey them, which has helped me in developing my project.
The persecution of Falun Gong
Sometimes Doing is Undoing and Sometimes Undoing is Doing - Francis Alÿs
Francis Alÿs was another artist I have always admired- his work 'Sometimes Doing is Undoing and Sometimes Undoing is Doing' was exhibited in the 'Age of Terror' exhibition that I visited realier. Alÿs made several visits to Afghanistan producing numerous pieces of artwork, including this one. One half of his work was footage of a soldier from the British Armed Forces, the other half was footage of an Afghan anti-government fighter, both of them disassembling their assault rifles. I found this piece interesting- although they are both doing the same actions at the same time, I found myself more drawn to the footage of the Afghan anti-government fighter. In one part of the video, a call to prayer is heard. This really spoke to me; the beauty of the call to prayer juxtaposed by the image of war, and the connection I feel between myself and a Muslim country.
I was more intrigued by the layout and presentation the piece, rather than the content of the piece; the way that the work was displayed was in a corner, where two videos meet at an edge. I feel that the way he incorporated two screens into one piece was really clever- the fact that the two people in the two videos are from completely different backgrounds and are fighting for different things, yet they are interconnected with each other by their intentions and actions. I also found it interesting that the two people in each video are doing the same actions, and are essentially reflecting each other, but are filmed from different locations and interpreted from completely different standpoints. As I was watching the videos in the gallery, I found myself focusing more on the video on the right- the footage of the Afghan anti-government fighter. I asked my boyfriend which footage he paid more attention to, and he too focused more on the footage of the Afghan anti-government fighter. I feel that this reflects society's general perception of war and the ignorance and oblivion of the general public- we are so sheltered and under-exposed to scenes like the footage of the Afghan anti-government fighter, thus we focus more on the video on the right because we are overwhelmed by curiosity.
I found myself to really appreciate the layout of this piece- not only how it was displayed in the gallery, but also how it was designed to be presented. Through a deeper exploration of this piece of artwork, and the realisation of the effect of having two screens showing two videos simultaneously that interconnect with each other seamlessly, I found that I have gained more inspiration for the composition of my final outcome as well as how I will present my final outcome.
The Tao Te Ching
As I continued to work on and develop my final outcome, I found myself thinking about how I could send the same message, but in different ways, with different outcomes. How do I deliver the same message in a positive way and a negative way? I then remembered a religious text I once read: The Tao Te Ching.
The Tao Te Ching is a Chinese classic text that was written by a sage called Lao Tzu in 6th-century BC. It is a fundamental text for philosophical and religious Taoism. It also strongly influenced other schools of Chinese philosophy and religion, including Legalism, Confucianism, and Buddhism. The Tao talks about the right way of life and the philosophy of life. The Tao talks about many aspects of life, explaining the flow of nature and how we should adapt to it. The text is written in classical Chinese, so it took some time to understand.
In a few sections, the Tao touches on the theme of 'Leadership'. Here are some notes I took from it, translated into English:
If the leader is not trustworthy, people will naturally not trust him. The highest leader will not publicize himself, will not ask for recognition, will not use intimidation. Good leaders are not too dominant or dictatorial.
The highest leaders are respected.
The second highest leaders are loved and praised.
The second lowest leaders are feared.
The lowest leaders are despised.
Weaponry is a sign of misfortune; to rule with greatness is to rule without violence or war. Leaders who view the use of violence/wars as successful or victorious will fail to achieve their ambitions. Good leaders do not view the victory of a war glorious; they do not fight out of anger or hatred. To rule successfully, leaders must avoid war. Victory in war is a failure. The victory march after a war is a funeral march; even if we win the war, we have lost thousands of lives.
Integrity is the most important. Non-interference is the best approach. Implementing too many rules itself creates problems. We should trust in the good of people. The more rules there are, the more rules will be broken; this only weakens a leader’s position
Leadership with Wu-Wei
Simplicity is the key to everything. Lao Tzu encouraged those who followed him to observe and seek to understand the laws of nature. We should develop intuition and build up personal power to lead a life with love and force. Straining and striving are not only useless, but counterproductive. We should venture to do nothing in the sense of discerning and following the natural forces.
Rule with honesty, rule without ego, rule without a desire for power. Maximise freedom, and avoid opposing arbitrary values.
I found that this was very relevant to the differences between the ruling in the West and ruling in the East. In the western world, leaders are portrayed to lead their nationals and citizens in a loving and praising way, whereas in the east, many leaders use fear as the driving factor to rule. I found that this idea resonates with my work; the idea of using both Chinese text and English text, but not directly translating the Chinese text to the English text; rephrasing the English text to sound loving and understanding, when in actuality, the Chinese text is aggressive, unloving, and cold.
I also found it really ironic that the Tao Te Ching is a Chinese text that had so much influence on ancient China; its original purpose was to help shape a just, fair, and nonviolent country- but look how modern China has turned out to be.
The Tao Te Ching
Black Mirror || Nosedive + China's Social Credit System
'Black Mirror' is a science fiction anthology TV series which examines modern society and technology's negative influence on our present and future. The first episode I have ever watched was called 'Nosedive', which was introduced to me by my philosophy teacher in year 13. The episode was set in the future, where society uses a technology where, through eye implants and mobile devices, everyone shares their daily activities and rates their interactions with others on a one-to-five star scale. This scale affects the individual's overall rating, which ultimately has a significant influence on their socioeconomic status. The scale can be seen by everyone; the higher the rating, the higher your social status, the better your treatments are.
After watching this episode, I wasn't shocked that this could be our reality in the near future. Just as I had anticipated, I then found out soon after that China was implementing a social credit system in the country. I was more interested in how they will make this work.
The government is building a social credit system to rate the trustworthiness of every Chinese citizen. There are plans to carry out the system by 2020. using data from government departments, financial institutions, and the internet, the system will create credit records to track individual’s behaviours and assign a rating to each citizen.
Every citizen is rated with 'sesame credit'; do something bad, such as jaywalking, falling behind on bills, or even befriending someone else with a low rating, your credit falls; do something good, such as volunteering, donating blood, or spreading positive messages about the country, your rating goes up. Those with low ratings will find it harder to survive- it will be more difficult for them to take out loans, travel abroad, get their children admitted to a desirable school, etc. etc.. Those with higher ratings will get things such as free gym membership, cheaper public transport, shorter wait times at hospitals, etc.. The Chinese government says that this system is absolutely necessary in order to build trust between people, businesses, and the government. So far, the Chinese people seem not too bothered by the implementation of the social credit system. In fact, nobody has really shown obvious interest or concern regarding this dehumanising system.
I found that this is very relevant to my current work; obviously, because it is research about the current political situation in China, but also because it highlights the Chinese government's increasingly authoritarian rule; the extent of transparency expected from their people requires them to give up their entire personal lives- everything will be under state control, and the private and public spheres are essentially merged together. The country will essentially and officially be running under an extreme totalitarian system. This raises the question of whether or not an individual who lives under such system still has an identity- if one is forced to live strictly the way the state requires them to, are they still 'them'? The idea of 'free will' is thrown entirely out the window, and the moral agency no longer exists, as one does not act out of one's belief of a 'morally correct motive', but rather the consequences of one's actions.
China's Social Credit System
The Experience Machine + Beyond Good and Evil
The 'Experience Machine' is a thought experiment proposed by philosopher Robert Nozick. The primary objective of this thought experiment was to disprove the theory of ethical hedonism: If one could choose between living in a simulated world free from pain and suffering, or continue living in reality and suffer, what would one choose? Many would choose to continue to live in reality- this proves that humans do not only seek pleasure, but also value truth. But why do people choose pain over ignorance? Why do people value truth? This reminded me of Part 1 and 2 of Freidrich Nietzsche's book, Beyond Good and Evil: On the Prejudices of Philosophers, The Free Spirit
I found the point that Nietzsche raised to be very interesting, and worth truly thinking about: Why do we want truth? Why not the untruth? Might not the untruth be just as important as the truth? Nietzsche accuses many philosophers of dogmatism- believing that behind every philosophy is a personal confession of the philosopher veneered by complex explanations and analyses. We need new, undogmatic, philosophers, free-spirited enough to overcome old prejudices. Nietzsche believed that the true 'free spirit' and real independence of thought is difficult to achieve- in order to overcome this, we must overcome accepted morality. Things are not 'true' just because they are favourable. Although Nietzsche's notion is not necessarily written in relation to politics, I believe that they are interconnected with each other; every government/leader of a nation has their own political philosophy/beliefs- they indoctrinate their people with their political beliefs by justifying them with favourable conditions. 'Old prejudices' could be compared to the conventional system a certain country has always been running under, and 'accepted morality' may be compared to the set of rules that the government has set out for their people. Either way, the 'truth' is always veneered- it is something that can be twisted and changed depending on people and situations.
However, going back to Nozick's Experience Machine theory, I found this experiment to be circumstantial- it is not applicable to one if one is not aware that one is living in a simulated world, to begin with. Also, it is arguable that pain and suffering are both subjective and is interpreted differently by every person; the notion 'free from pain and suffering' is slightly misleading in a sense where it is not specified whether the pain and suffering is happening in the individual's life or the world around the individual. An individual may live a smooth-running, successful life, experiencing no failures or mistakes at all- however, due to the fact that they are living in such favourable conditions, they are oblivious to the fact that the world around them is descending into chaos. This individual may persist to believe that they are living in a perfect world, based solely on the fact that they are not directly affected by the chaos happening in the world around them.
I found that this thought experiment resonates with my current work, because of my exploration of deception from and dishonesty of our government and the media. We are quite possibly all being lied to right this moment; we may be living in a simulated world where our reality is fake, and everything around us, without our knowledge, is being controlled by the authority. Free will may just be an illusion- it is nothing but an imaginary concept that we so ignorantly take for granted and believe that we have.
When I had this thought, I had another realisation; I found that to have the awareness to know that this may be happening to us, that we may be being lied to, that we may be living in a simulated reality- this awareness is a luxury. There are millions of Mainland Chinese and North Koreans who don't know this- they have not the slightest clue that they are being lied to; they are bred, born, and raised in a cage, where they are indoctrinated by false claims made by their governments.
Beyond Good and Evil || Part I : On the Prejudices of Philosophers, Part II : The Free Spirit
The Experience Machine || Anarchy, State, and Utopia (Pg 42-45)
1984 || George Orwell
1984 is a dystopian novel written by George Orwell in 1949. The novel is set in Airstrip One, formerly Great Britain, a province of the superstate Oceania, whose residents are victims of perpetual war, omnipresent government surveillance, and public manipulation. The exact reason why Orwell wrote 1984 is unknown, but many believe that he intended the novel to be a warning after WWII- it may be what Orwell pictured the world to be soon after the war. The image that Orwell creates of this dystopian society holds high levels of similarity to the realistic description of Germany or of the USSR at that time. Orwell successfully conveys the terrifying idea of the corruption and failure of communism, and shows an extreme depiction of the nature of a totalitarian state. This book relates strongly to my work, as I am also looking at a dystopian future vision of Hong Kong, which will also be set in the totalitarian state of communist China. I felt slightly afraid after reading this book- It made me question whether or not this is the true future of Hong Kong/China. This may not just be a dystopian novel after all- one day, it might turn into reality.
GALLERY VISIT || House of Illustration - Made in North Korea
I visited the House of Illustration to see the Made in North Korea exhibition. I was especially excited to see this exhibition, as it correlates strongly with what I am focusing on right now in my work. I wanted to see the differences and similarities between the two countries, DPRK (North Korea) and China, that are running under the same governmental system. Objects such as North Korean propaganda posters, magazines, books, food packaging, etc. could be found in the exhibition.
DPRK is the most closed-off country in the world- nobody knows what is truly going on. However, rumours such as famine and exploitation of their people can be found in the news on multiple occasions. People who have successfully fled the country compared North Korea to 'hell'. However, as I was looking at the propaganda posters, I found myself questioning the true state of the country: DPRK is portrayed as such a prosperous country, is there really so much unjust and misfortunes happening in the country?
A second after having that thought, I realised that that was exactly what the North Korean government wants the world to believe: that the DPRK is the greatest country in the world, that it is thriving without the help of other countries.
I found that the messages that the DPRK government is sending to their people are similar to the Chinese government's intentions. For example, on one of the posters, there was text that read 'More consumer goods for the people!' Obviously, this was ironic and undoubtedly a false statement, as such thing as 'consumer goods' does not exist in a country that is running under a communist system. By indoctrinating their people with ideas of 'freedom' and 'hard work pays off', their people won't realise that their government is running under an unfavourable system, where the people are constantly being exploited, and instead will give their everything to produce and work for their country, without questioning anything.
I found this exhibition to be really helpful with the development of my current work; this exhibition relates to my project, as I am also exploring the many tactics and strategies governments use in order to keep control of their people's minds. Although I was very appreciative of the fact that I had the opportunity to witness DPRK exported goods in the flesh, I did not particularly like the concept behind the exhibition- it glorified the DPRK and showed only the pleasant side of the country; it was interesting to gain a deeper understanding of the commodities of the DPRK, but the exhibition was far too superficial. In fact, it was more like a museum, rather than an exhibition.
Furthermore, the goods shown in the exhibition was from a collection of a man named Nicholas Bonner, who was the founder of the Koryo Tours, the only independent travel company based in Beijing, specialising in group and independent tourism to the DPRK. The book he put together, Made in North Korea: Graphics from Everyday Life, as well as this exhibition, only showed life in Pyongyang, the capital of the DPRK. I find it rather naive of him to attempt to summarise the lives of North Koreans based only on his personal experiences in the country, especially when he is based in Pyongyang, which is believed to be made to look like an incredibly flamboyant city filled with beautiful sceneries and futuristic architectural structures for the sole purpose of creating a fake image of the DPRK as a flourishing nation for the outside world. It is a known fact that the country has restricted tourists and foreigners from visiting most areas in the DPRK- reasons behind this are unconfirmed, but there are many instances where refugees of the DPRK have described their lives in the country as 'worse than hell'. Mass surveillance is prevalent in the country, where surveillance has extended beyond wired microphones and wiretapping of fixed-line and mobile phones. Microphones are installed outdoors to pick up conversations that may involve serious conversations about sensitive topics. Every citizen's life is under constant surveillance. Pyongyang can be compared to a massive theatre for North Koreans to act in, and the consequences of not following the script are jail time and death penalties.
Are these facts not enough to prove that Pyongyang is an inaccurate, false, and untrue representation of the DPRK?
Corporate Jargon and Equivocation
Corporate Jargon, also known as 'Corporatese', is the over-complication of a simple piece of text- it is the rephrasing of a text with the intention to make it sound flowery and indirect, creating the impression of sophistication, skill, and technical knowledge through the use of indirect speech and accentuated complexity of a piece of text. By doing so, the meaning of the text becomes unclear, making it's intention opaque and understanding difficult. The use of this is to 'spin' a certain situation around, to make a negative situation sound positive. By playing with the audience's mind, deception is easier to achieve through such techniques.
As I explored more into corporate jargon, I found that 'equivocation' holds a highly similar idea. Equivocation is the use of ambiguous language to conceal the truth or to avoid committing oneself. By using an ambiguous term in more than one sense, the argument is made misleading and difficult to comprehend.
I found that corporate jargon is prevalent throughout The Basic Law of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China. As I was reading the basic law, I found that there were several laws that I had to read over a few times to understand entirely the meaning behind the law; for example, in article 159: 'No amendment to this Law shall contravene the established basic policies of the People's Republic of China regarding Hong Kong. The power of amendment of this Law shall be vested in the National People's Congress.' This essentially states that the Chinese government can change our laws and policies under any circumstances without our (citizens of Hong Kong) or the Hong Kong government's agreement. By phrasing the law in a way that sounds 'fair' and 'unbiased', the audience will be more likely to accept what is being said and will move on without questioning.
Corporate Jargon Phrases - The Independent
Perception Management is a propaganda technique that involves carefully altering the perceptions of a target audience to suit the objectives of the sponsor. The term originated within the U.S. Military, where they provide or deny selective information to a target audience to influence their emotions, motives and objective reasoning in order to promote a change in behaviour that is favourable to the sponsor.
I found this resonates strongly with what I am currently exploring; the Chinese government, along with other totalitarian states, use this technique to persuade their people and to promote their governmental system. One of the obvious examples of this is the use of propaganda posters in modern China; the content of the posters promote favourable lifestyles to the citizens, so long as they support the governmental system and the Communist party. Ideas such as 'equality', 'riches', and 'freedom' are words found frequently on propaganda posters in 21st-century China, appealing to the modern audience and citizens of China- this is a form of perception management; by indoctrinating the Chinese with false perceptions of democracy, freedom, and equality, the Chinese are easily brainwashed by the government and will unquestioningly follow what the Communist party wants and tells them to do.
GALLERY VISIT || Age of Terror - Alfredo Jaar
Alfredo Jaar- 1 May, 2011
I visited the Imperial War Museum to see the Age of Terror exhibition. The exhibition was of several artists' responses to war and conflict since the 9/11 terrorist attack. I found this exhibition incredibly emotive and touching; the differences in perspectives of each artist, how they viewed the attack, and how they opened alternative viewpoints of the event for the audience to see- I was in awe. I found this exhibition relevant to the underlying theme of my current work and recent projects; they were all responses to a political event, and some pieces were stories told from the first-hand experience of the artist.
This was my favourite piece in the exhibition. I found the layout of the piece very interesting- I like keeping work tidy and minimalistic, and the way the work is laid out makes everything look really clean and sleek. This piece highlights the fact that the assassination of Osama Bin Laden was never publicized. Instead, the image that entered the collective memory was of Barack Obama and his National Security Council watching the operation to kill Bin Laden. The white screen on the left juxtaposes the image of Obama and the NSC, signifying the absent images of the assassination. Jaar's work questions how images are used by the media to shape public perception. I found this piece incredibly clever; the fact that this piece questions mainstream media and is exhibited through the use of two digital screens creates a connection between the physical artwork and the concept behind it. I also found the positioning of the screens very cleverly done too- it looks as if Obama and the NSC are watching Bin Laden's assassination on the left, but all we, the general public, can see, is a blank screen.
I feel that this piece really resonates with my work because of the idea of 'truth' in the artwork. People are fed lies and given very limited information from the media and the government, yet we form erroneous conclusions that influences and changes our views of the world around us. We never question the media, we never question what they show us and how much they show us. We always willingly accept the information being fed to us without doubting anyone or anything, even when it is clear that the truth is hidden from us. I found this very interesting; after exploring more about this notion, I discovered something called 'perception management', a propaganda technique that involves carefully altering the perceptions of a target audience to suit the objectives of the sponsor.
ARTIST RESEARCH - Francis Alys
Francis Alÿs is an artist I was introduced to throughout the foundation course- I found that I was really interested in the way he creates his work, where he derives his inspirations from, the medium he uses for his works, and his ideas and contexts within his work. I believe that his work really resonates with my current work.
Alÿs takes into account social practice, architecture, and space, in most of his works. His works are very spontaneous and experimental. The results are always unpredictable- he is driven by passion and curiosity, and that is what I admire so much about him. His willingness to take risks is so fascinating- I fell in love with him and his artwork.
Alÿs' works challenge social norms, and questions human morality. The philosophy of man is a prevalent theme in his works- similar to Alÿs, I find myself basing my work on a lot of personal issues that may be considered 'taboo', and through my artwork, discuss topics that are usually avoided in conversations. To uncover the ugliness of humanity, to question human morality- no matter how trivial my issues may seem to be, this was something I aimed to achieve in my work.
In Alÿs' 'The Green Line', Alÿs explored the tension between politics and poetics. I was in love with this piece- the exploration of how beauty and pain interconnect is a prevalent theme in all my artwork; just like 'The Green Line', the poeticism of the piece combined with the strong political context gave the piece a sense of bittersweetness and juxtaposition.
Alÿs' work is based around performance art, and many of his works involve the participation and presence of an audience and people other than him. I found this inspiring and interesting- influenced by Alÿs, participants are essential to my final project- the audience is one of the most important components of my piece. I wanted my presence in my final outcome to be subtle and unobtrusive- like Alÿs' work.
Alÿs' work is also location-based and site-specific- this relates to my artwork for this project, as the location of where I will display my final outcome is essential to the concept of my piece; the idea of site-specificity through the use of language and text (Chinese VS. English).
Alÿs gave me the impression that many of his works revolve around a romanticised perception of tragic things in life. There was a sort of bittersweet sensation when looking at/watching his pieces, such as 'Children's Games'. 'Romanticised tragedy' is a key element to a lot of my works, such as my current project- the beautifying of an ugly subject. I found a unique connection between Alÿs' work and mine- I am in awe and in love.
Bannedbook.org is a website I came across while I was researching banned books in China. The website is run by Mainland Chinese, and PDF files of most of the banned books and films in China can be found and downloaded from the website. I found this mind-blowing- I did not expect to find a website dedicated to the banned books, especially when the extent of censorship in China is so intense. I found many controversial books and articles that questioned the Chinese government and encouraged a democratic system to be implemented in China. I found several books and articles I have always wanted to read but was unable to gain access to, such as 《中國六四真相》(The truth about June 6th) and 《九評共產黨》(Nine Commentaries on the Communist Party), both of which comment on the communist party of China and reveals truths about the country that the government has always been trying to conceal from their people, such as the flaws of communism, the truth behind historical events such as the Tiananmen massacre, and scandals of the Chinese leaders (Deng Xiaoping, Xi Jinping, Mao Zedong etc.)
GALLERY VISIT || UAL Olympus Photography Award
I visited a small exhibition called UAL Olympus Photography Award, which featured photography work from a number of UAL students. As a 4D student, I have always been interested in photography. I found that several works were exhibited and presented in very innovative and interesting ways; there were certain pieces that were quite interactive, requiring the viewer to walk around the sculpture in order to view the entire piece. In doing so, the artist gives the viewer a physical element to the photograph. All of the works were conceptual, and some required a lot of attention to notice the details of the photograph. There was also a showreel in the exhibition, and I found that the video pieces were very well-made. Although the artist is unknown, there was a video piece that involved the use of writing in site-specific locations, altering the interpretation of where the location is and what it's used for by changing the writing on the signs in the location. I found this idea very interesting; the fact that just one word can change the entire context of something.
Ten Years 十年
Ten Years is a movie directed, filmed, and produced in Hong Kong. It received several awards but was banned in Mainland China. The movie was released in 2015, and is a Hong Kong dystopian speculative fiction anthology film. The entire film is made up of 5 short films, offers a vision of the semi-autonomous territory in the year 2025, hence the name of the film '10 Years', with human rights and freedoms gradually diminishing as the Mainland Chinese government exerts increasing influence in Hong Kong.
I first watched this film when it was screened to the public free of charge, outside of Sha Tin park in April 2015. Due to the fact that the film was very political and encouraged Hong Kong independence, it was banned from screening in all theatres except one. The event was called '同步', meaning ‘Synchronised steps', as the film was screened to the public free of charge, all at the same time, in all parts of Hong Kong.
The underlying theme of the film is the tension between Mainland China and Hong Kong- each short film conveyed the theme in different ways, from humour to horror. This is also relevant to my recent works, as I have had a growing interest in political art and will continue to make artwork that highlights the conflict between China and Hong Kong. I find it intriguing how although the ways the message is conveyed are very different, they are all presented as narrative pieces. Although so far I am unsure of how I will develop my final outcome, I wish to also incorporate a narrative into my final piece. This is similar to my previous project, 280914, which is a narrative of my experience in a protest back in 2014 in Hong Kong. I found that by using a first-person narrative to convey my underlying theme, I can successfully put the audience into my perspective. I found that many people like to understand the backstory of a piece of artwork in order to interpret the piece clearly; in group critiques, the first question people usually ask is 'What is the meaning behind this piece?'. I believe that the best way to tackle that is to show the viewer the entire backstory through a narrative.
I find the idea of a dystopian vision of such a familiar place, especially to me, very interesting; the theme of dystopia may be something I will incorporate into this project. Although it was incredibly heartbreaking to watch the movie, there was an undeniable truth to everything within the movie. The theme of poeticism is prevalent throughout the entire film- although the message behind the movie was terrifying to Hong Kongers and is something that is incredibly undesirable to us, the entire political situation of Hong Kong was presented as a romanticised tragedy. This is an aspect I include in many of my works, and aim to include in my future works too; sentimentalising things the majority may consider ugly.
GALLERY VISIT || Acts of Disruption - None Futbol Club & Louise Ashcroft
As well as visiting the White Cube, I also visited The Concept Space- they had an exhibition called 'Acts of Disruption', which is an exhibition of eight international artists addressing socio-political issues. I found this exhibition very relevant to the work I am creating now, as I am currently focusing on the political situation of Hong Kong, China, and the conflicts between the two.
During my visit, I found the works of a group of artists called None Futbol Club very intriguing. None Futbol Club uses poetry and philosophy to raise questions about our current habits and demonstrates that through resistance and disruption, we can begin to build an alternative society. Their works Keep Warm Burnout The Rich and Hot Wheels were featured in the exhibition; I really admired their combination of performance, poetry, and sculpture work- I also noticed that site specificity was one of the key features of their works. I found that these were all components of my work too; poetry has always been a prevalent component of my artwork, and site specificity also had relation to my art, as I must make my work accessible to a Western audience while focusing on the theme of Eastern politics.
Another artist I found interesting in the exhibition was Louise Ashcroft. Ashcroft is a video, sculpture, installation artist, as well as a writer and a voiceover artist. Her works Mallopoly and Investopedia -v- Urban Dictionary were featured in the exhibition. I found it very compelling that she addresses such serious political issues as well as the ignorance of human beings through humour- a light-hearted take on serious issues is something I admire deeply, as many of my works address thought-provoking issues and questions human morality through a romanticised perspective of the issues. Literature is a very prevalent theme in Ashcroft's work. One of her pieces called Masks is an incredibly personal piece that reveals her inner emotions and perspectives of several subjects through writing. As aforementioned, I enjoy combining poetry with my work; I find that literature allows me to articulate themes such as the relation between beauty and pain and the questioning of human morality clearly.
GALLERY VISIT || Concrete Pitch - Eddie Peake
During my visit to the White Cube, I saw an exhibition called 'Concrete Pitch' by Eddie Peake, a 21st-century contemporary artist.
Eddie Peake's use of gallery space intrigued me- there was a mix of all mediums of art, such as 2D paintings, 3D sculptures, video art, and performance pieces. The exhibition was very interactive, and had spaces that viewers had to explore for themselves to truly understand the nature of the entire gallery, as well as the idea that Peake wanted to convey. His work was presented in an immersive and constructed environment, and weave autobiographical elements and an examination of self-identity in an urban landscape. In Concrete Pitch, Peake chose the theme of childhood and adolescence- all the works presented in the gallery were of relevance to Finsbury Park, the place he grew up in, which is also coincidentally where I currently live. I found this exhibition one of the most significant exhibitions I've visited; unlike many artists who convey the theme of childhood through usual objects found in adolescence, such as childhood toys, games, or subjects that relate to children, the theme of adolescence in Peake's exhibition is subtle and non-cliche; I found this incredibly admirable, as the concept behind his work was executed unconventionally but clearly.
After visiting this exhibition, I found myself wanting to develop my work through a combination of different mediums; similar to Peake’s exhibition, I wish to create multiple pieces of work that complement and seamlessly interconnect with each other, combining together to create one final piece that ultimately conveys my main idea.