MU Chen; Changgang (from 'Assembly hall series no.6')
Since 2002 Mu Chen and Shao Yinong have been photographing communal spaces connected to key events in the history of the Chinese Communist Party. Their chosen subjects are spaces of extreme flux; many started as ancestral halls, were appropriated by the Red Guard or party officials for political purposes and today serve a variety of functions - from cinemas to karaoke bars. Known as the 'Assembly hall' series, this sizeable body of work presents a compelling political portrait of Chinese social history. Ancient clan histories intermingle with memories of the physical and psychological violence endured by many during the Cultural Revolution. These are restrained yet eloquent images that speak as much of the physical evidence of China's turbulent modern history as they do of the collective memories and experiences of three generations of Chinese people.
Mu Chen's work selected for 'The 5th Asia-Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art' at Queensland Art Gallery, 2006, demonstrated a particularly complex engagement with China's history. Where other examples from the 'Assembly hall' series plainly illustrate the dissipation of revolutionary ideals - the co-option, for example, of Red Guard Assembly Halls as karaoke bars - this group depicts politically significant assembly halls that have been preserved or reconstructed by the government and operate today as 'Red Tourism' sites.
Changgang (from 'Assembly hall series no.6') 2006
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