Political Pop


Political Pop
Artistic trend
‘Political Pop’ is a critical art term I coined and used for the first time in a 1991 article ‘Apathy and Deconstructive Consciousness in Post-1989 Art’. It describes a social current emerged in the 1990s to contrast the arrival of Western consumer culture to China and often defined as ‘Mao Fever’, which transformed the ‘holiness of politics’ of the Mao era into a satirical popular trend, characterized by pop music arrangements of famous songs of the Mao period or the application of Mao’s portrait on lighters and other paraphernalia (see Neo-Maoism and Mao Fever). The earliest artists expressing themselves in such style had participated in the 85 New Wave [Art] Movement and subsequently abandoned their metaphysical concerns to adopt a deconstructive approach defined by the use of Pop Art techniques.
The language of ‘Political Pop’ characteristically combines political symbols of the Mao era, most often Mao portraits, and symbols of Western consumer culture to create a feeling of irony and absurdity. Similar trends have emerged in many post-socialist societies, such as the phenomenon of Sots Art in Russia. In later periods, this artistic trend spread to many kinds of art forms, including film and television. Like ‘Mao Fever’, ‘Political Pop’ reflects a complex psychological effect stemming from the inability to find release from the so-called ‘Mao complex’ created though years of hammering indoctrination. By acknowledging political reality, ‘Political Pop’ satirizes and neutralizes it as form of breaking through from an overly saturated political mentality. Artists whose work is mostly associated with this trend or who have occasionally used this approach in their oeuvre include Feng Mengbo, Li Shan, Yu Youhan, Wang Guangyi, Wang Xingwei, Wang Ziwei, Zhang Hongtu, among others.
Dal Lago, Francesca (1993). ‘Il realismo critico della giovane arte cinese’ [The Critical Realism of Young Chinese Art]. In Punti Cardinali dell’Arte, Catalogo della XLV Esposizione Internazionale d’Arte.
Venezia: Edizioni La Biennale di Venezia, 538.
——(1999). ‘Personal Mao: Reshaping an Icon in Contemporary Chinese Art’, The Art Journal (Summer): 75–87.
——(2001). ‘Images, Words and Violence : Cultural Revolutionary Influences on Chinese Avant-Garde Art’. In Wu Hong (ed), Chinese Art at the Crossroads: Between Past and Future. Hong Kong: New Art Media, 32–9.
Li, Xianting (1992). ‘Hou 89 yishu zhong de wuliaogang he jiegou yishi’ [Apathy and Deconstructive Consciousness in Post-1989 Art], Yishu chaoliu 1 [Art Currents, Taiwan].
——(1993). ‘Major Trends in the Development of Contemporary Chinese Art’. In Valerie C. Doran (ed.), China’s New Art, Post-1989 (exhibition catalogue). Hong Kong: Hanart T Z Gallery, x-xxii.
——(1994). ‘The Imprisoned Heart, Ideology in an Age of Consumption’. ART AsiaPacific (April): 25–30.
LI XIANTING (TRANS. FRANCESCA DAL LAGO)

Encyclopedia of contemporary Chinese culture. . 2011.

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