Sunday, May 24, 2009
Exactly 20 years ago I took this picture of an armed Chinese soldier at the onset of martial law in Beijing. That same image, with no attachment to it's original context or how it fits into the Chinese story, was appropriated by artist Shepard Fairy (of the Obama "Hope Poster" fame) See below:
Beijing residents, using busses and their bodies, had blocked a convoy of soldiers attempting to enter the city. This was the first appearance of lethal weapons on the streets and was a precursor of what was to come on June 4. I'm sure the reality of the picture is not relevant to the artist...but I find that disturbing.
Images stripped of their context but retaining strong emotional elements are hallmarks of fascist and Soviet propaganda styles - an acknowledged inspiration for this artist. In this case, I think a lack of accurate context for the image drains it of meaning. It's also dishonest.
I suggest that Mr Fairey credit those whos materials he uses to "inspire" him. The truth of things might help enhance the depth of how his work is perceived and actually make it more interesting to contemplate and not just cool to look at.