The History of Monuments

The History of Monuments, 125x4200cm, c-print, 2010


In Chinese dictionary, monument is described as a gigantic monument, referring to incredible masterpieces, great achievements, valuable objects or famous examples, in particular, referring to talents and successes in art or intelligence recorded or preserved so far. We all hope we will be remembered by history, dreaming to be inscribed onto this historic gigantic monument. However, the monument is too small to record all of us. Therefore history has been changed with records on the monument being smeared and reconstructed.

In China, every profession, every working unit, every office will have its daily agenda, monthly report, and annual sum-up. People tend to summarize the excellence of the history at an interval of every five-year, every ten year or every century. We screen flashbacks and review what we gain and what we lose, our successes and fallouts over the past life and work processes. This kind of summary recorded in a monumental style can be seen along a long window corridor display in local communities as s well as in China National History Museum.

As a late comer, upon viewing the past history, we discover dramatic changes in the historical records. Why have these records been changed? Because some one “tamper with” and “make up” other versions of history, hoping “we” to be remembered by the history and not the rest of others, “our” achievements be highlighted while others be dwindled. Nobody refuses to be cited or quoted in an “official history” and be inscribed on a monument for respect. Therefore, I often doubt the validity of such profoundly “manufactured history”. History often has two versions, the official one and the unofficial one. I am more interested in the unofficial one which draws all our attention closely. We need another story of the unofficial history to approve of “a valid official record” in our heart.

In the summer of 2009, I continued shooting for fifteen days, and finished “The history of Monuments”. I invited about 200 models, used fifteen 8 by ten positive films to make a relief-like photo-mural, the size of which is 1.25 x 42 meters. This image is printed onto a whole roll of Kodak paper. Actually I don’t care about history. I am only interested in the extreme length of a photoe. If there is a 100-meter-long photo paper, I will be able to put in a lot more “valuable” stuff and create a 100-meter long photo. The historical figures and contents in this photo work are not that important. In the “The History of Monuments”, I put in some famous people recorded in the official history of many civilizations, and also some small potatoes in the unofficial history. There is a lot of rubbish as well as some useful daily goods. These shattered pieces of people and objects construct a monumental history in my own mind. Maybe it is an unofficial part of the history in the standard of the official history, maybe vice versa.

Print PDF