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Working on History
Contemporary Chinese Photography and the Cultural Revolution

18.08.2017 to 07.01.2018
Museum für Fotografie

The exhibition unveils a chapter of photographic history as fascinating as it is little researched: a German-Chinese team of curators – Ludger Derenthal (Staatliche Museen zu Berlin), Wang Huangsheng (CAFA), Guo Xiaoyan (Minsheng Art Museum) – examines the consequences of the Cultural Revolution for today’s Chinese art and photography scene. The aim is for this historical perspective to lend a better understanding of contemporary Chinese photographic art.

During the Cultural Revolution of 1966–1976, photography was used for a variety of purposes. The historical photographs of those years often serve as the basis for works by contemporary photographers and artists, who use group portraits, private photographs, and press pictures of significant events to then transform them in a wide variety of ways and translate them into contemporary visual idioms.

Photo artists such as Cai Dongdong, Cao Kai, Mo Yi, Wang Qingsong, Wang Youshen and Zhang Dali engage directly with an important phenomenon of the Cultural Revolution – the use of photography as a medium for propaganda – by revealing forms of censorship and montage, investigating the use of photographs in the heroization of Mao Zedong, favoured party cadres, and soldiers, while re-contextualizing photographs from contemporary newspapers. Other artists (Mu Chen, Qu Yan, Shao Yinong, Zhang Kechun) document the surviving legacies of the Cultural Revolution – the assembly halls and party headquarters – and photograph the ritual re-enactment of symbolic acts from those years. Finally, artists such as Feng Mengbo, Hai Bo, He Chongyue, Maleonn, Song Yongping, Wang Ningde and Zhuang Hui draw upon the strengths of photography to research individual biographies, exploring the role of passport photos, snapshots, and group portraits both during the Cultural Revolution and in the present day.

The exhibition is presented in two parts: approximately a third of the show is dedicated to the historical visual world of the Cultural Revolution. This forms a counterpoint to the in many cases large-format (often serially arranged) contemporary exhibits, a generous selection of which are displayed alongside video installations and photo sculptures.

An exhibition presented by the Kunstbibliothek, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, and the Gesellschaft für Deutsch-Chinesischen Kulturellen Austausch e.V. (GeKA), sponsored by the Hauptstadtkulturfonds.

Jebensstraße 2
10623 Berlin

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Sat 11:00 - 19:00

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Co-organizer: Gesellschaft für Deutsch-Chinesischen Kulturellen Austausch e.V. (GeKA e.V.)