Qian and I finally went to the Gao Brothers' art exhibit currently on display at the Kemper Art Gallery in Kansas City tonight. It is amazing. I'm so impressed that this exhibit - an artistic exploration of Mao and the Cultural Revolution - is on display in my home city.
To hear a radio program about the Gao Brothers' exhibit in KC from PRI's "The World," click here.
Below are photos of some of the pieces I took on my phone:
This next photo is a close-up of this map of China:
The piece that struck me most from the exhibit is the sculpture below entitled "Mao's Guilt:"
Here is the placard explaining the work (sorry about the low quality on this):
"Mao's Guilt" was the focus of this New York Times article from last year.
Mao's reign and the turbulence China went through under his leadership, particularly the Cultural Revolution and the Great Leap Forward, fascinate me. I have such a hard time reconciling that time period with the China I lived in for three years. Seeing where China was under Mao forty years ago and comparing that with the country now makes China's rise seem so improbable.
But despite the economic prosperity, Mao's Party is still the one running the show in China. There is no cult of personality around Mao any more, but he still is very much a larger-than-life figure. His portrait hangs in Tiananmen Square. His face graces every denomination of currency above 1 yuan. Mao statutes look down upon several Chinese cities.
China has not had a national dialog about Mao and the trauma the country endured under his rule. The official line is that he was 70% good, 30% bad. While that's what everyone is supposed to say, I believe Chinese people think it's more complicated than that.
The Gao Brothers' work I saw this evening is a fascinating meditation on Mao. I find their attempt at "taking off the emperor's clothes" (literally in one piece) and examining the psychology and spirit of the man intriguing. While the Gao Brothers' art is certainly not the mode in which most Chinese people would, if possible, examine the former leader, I thoroughly enjoyed their take on the man.
Anyone living in or passing through Kansas City before January 2nd should see this exhibit. It is something you will not forget. I will surely go back in the coming weeks. I forgot to mention, admission is free.