China Mansion

China Mansion, 120x1200cm, 2003

In summer 2003, I created China Mansion (120x1200cm). It was shot in a Beijing movie studio of more than 19,000 square feet. This studio formerly hosted important movie crews, including those for the model revolutionary operas during the period of the Cultural Revolution and, recently played host to the Kill Bill (Quentin Tarentino) film crew. Today, the largest film studio in China is regrettably torn down, to make room for commercially ambitious real-estate development projects.

China Mansion summarizes my perception of Chinese social reality during the current stage of globalization. China has been very enthusiastic about inviting foreign experts in economy, technology, architecture, and culture to give support and guidance to its modernization programs. These foreign specialists help to create economic opportunities and introduce alternative systems of thought to China. However, the cultural clash creates social contradictions. This phenomenon triggered me to shoot and direct China Mansion. In the staging of China Mansion, I invited models to play the parts of foreign guests, mimicking postures in paintings by Ingres, Courbet, Manet, Gauguin, Klein, Boucher, Rembrandt, Rubens, Man Ray, and several other artists. I wanted my models to communicate with each other across centuries and at the same time dialoguing with Chinese culture so as to create certain amiable relationships. It seems my hope was in vain. It’s easy to see my visible confusion as I stand at the door greeting guests, as they enter China Mansion, filled with both Chinese and western imagery from antiquity. Obviously the host is a conservative, but also a fashionista. On the left of the photograph, the host wears a banner of welcome. But on the right, the armed guard—like a terra-cotta soldier—looks like a robber, preventing the honorable guests from freely circulating and instead forcing them to leave something valuable behind in the host’s China Mansion.

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