AUSTRALIAN GALLERIES MAY 30 – JUNE 17
Struggle sessions evolved from ideals of criticism and more
importantly self-criticism popular amongst Russian communists in
the 1920’s. Chinese communists were slow to take up struggle
sessions as they conflicted with the more traditional Chinese ideal of
“saving face”. Later during the Land Reform Campaign! struggle
sessions took off as the people needed to demonise and get angry at
the people they were taking land from. Peasants were encouraged to
accuse land owners of all sorts of crimes and call them all sorts of
names in struggle sessions promoted as “speak bitterness “sessions
and “give utterance to grief “sessions.
Struggle sessions and then denunciation rallies filled the gap
otherwise filled by the news and then social media. People were at
first bonded by the spectacle of someone else being humiliated in a
public setting and then protected by their ability to name some else
to be humiliated, defamed and beaten – in a public setting.
Constantly accusing was the best form of protection against being
The process of avoiding being accused started with writing
accusations about people in your town, that you barely knew, on big
poster paper and pasting it on public buildings or hanging them from
the loud speakers that screamed party slogans from street corners.
With the support of other like-minded people, you then organise a
struggle session where you could be seen accusing your target
person of the impossibility of not avoiding one category of the
impossible to remember-never ending list – of anti-party behaviours.
One of the few powers available to the peasants was the most
powerful – the power to transform through judgement. Struggle
sessions gave the peasants the chance to turn a rich landlord into a
“capitalist roader”, “class enemy “or “counter revolutionary”. A
persecuting government official could be transformed into “a
rightist”, “a western spy” or even a “Krushchev”. Most seductively
you could turn a stranger into someone of whom you know
everything important there is to know.
Committed judgement doesn’t end at a funeral. In order to feel
comfortable in the present it is important to judge and then label the
past. This sets the past in place and stops it from coming up from
behind contradicting your present. We have to re-label past
relationships and de-friend them on facebook and so the natural
logic of the struggle session was to transform the people of the past
through judgement to stop them humiliating and contradicting the
people of the present.
No Instagram images were found.
“And Mao said let the fish be for the heavens, let the birds be for the earth and let the people be everywhere and nowhere. And Mao saw that it was good…
Australian Galleries, Melbourne, opening May 30 6-8pm artist’s talk Saturday 3 June 2pm, show finishes 17 June
AND MAO SAID….
A narcissist experiences the world in crime sized bits – crimes against his or her omnipotence. For chairman Mao and later and alongside Madame Mao the cultural revolution was an attempt at crushing a crime spree.
Being just one in the biggest population in the world and your generation just the latest in an infinite number of proceeding more interesting generations leaves you with living a life of constant humiliation and envitability. For the people of pre-cultural revolution personal significance was an impossibility. The cultural revolution offered the possibility that their place, race and time was the most – potentially the only time, race and place of significance. Rice in general being one of the most important things in the world and world history but a single grain being the most insignifant of objects – rice became a symbol of the power of shared common things, ahistorical essential things, venerating the always overlooked things made the poor people who owned them feel at first special then as always follows – superior. People first dressed in clothes made of rice sacks then inevitably they just wore rice sacks.
DESTRUCTION WITHOUT REPLACEMENT
In massive populations there is the fear of disappearing – in third world politics there is the fear of being disappeared. Mao was shocked by the way his comrade Stalin was disappeared after Stalin’s death during the 50’s and 60’s in Russia by Khrushchev and his followers. Mao didn’t just see Khrushchevs in his government but he saw them in every member of his enourmous population,and in every statue of a past great ,every symbol of religion or europeanism and in every page of historical and creative record. The steam rolling and cementing over of cemeteries, the burning of university libraries and smashing of churches was for Mao and the people the ultimate narcissist fantasy of destruction without replacement.
GENESIS 1. AND GOD SAID….
And God said let the birds be for the sky….and God said let the fishes be for the waters and God saw that it was good. And God said Let us make man in our own image, after our own likeness….and God saw that it was good.
Mao and his followers could change the course of rivers, the height of mountains and even the populations of mice, mosquitos and certain types of sparrows. Because they destroyed all the ornamental fish ponds in China, Mao’s red guards had to pile up plastic bags half filled with water and gold fish until they reached the sky. Mao’s war on sparrows meant that the land was covered in birds and Mao’s cult of personality saw everyone dress, talk, think and look like one person. The people could turn historic iron gates into frying pans and pianos into work benches and paintings into floor mats and university professors into cleaners. Street names, shop names and people’s names were no longer set by an alienating past and protected by a yet to be determined future. Everything would belong to the now and the here.
TRAFFIC LIGHTS WITHOUT INTERSECTIONS
By breaking away from his communist party and criticing and encouraging criticism of it, Mao exposed the great swindle of western democracy that of giving the people the choice of two of the same thing. During the cultural revolution and beyond, Mao created divisions in the party to give the people a sense of choice but when the people share a common one direction, choice or symbols of choice ; art religion ,fashion ect… became merely decorations like traffic lights on a road that has no intersections.
The cultural revolution was able in some part to turn the public and historical into the private and contemporary. The shared public humiliation of the previous two hundred years of bulling by foreign nations had the Chinese looking for a completely new way of seeing themselves and the world. The farce or tradgedy of trying to solve systematic problems with biographical solutions was one of the defining qualities of the cultural revolution. People high on the power to change the world to meet their needs turned zoos into supermarkets , aquariums into fish markets, farms into factories and people into tools..The fear of personal impotence was solved by the mass torture of exotic animals. Visitors to the art museums had their portraits painted over the heads of historically important works some not taking of their rice sacks covering their heads. The work done by talentless but well trained party artists.