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Photo: Daddy & I by O Zhang

 

O Zhang¡¯s Horizon

Exhibit at Vancouver Art Gallery

Interview by Myungsook Lee

 

 

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You have been working on the theme of the future of China throughout the images of young girls (¡°Daddy and I¡±  ¡°Horizon¡± and ¡°The World Is Yours (But Also Ours)¡±).  These three clearly demonstrate a sense of the future of China. It¡¯s interesting that you mostly work with female models. Why?

O:  For the obvious reason: because I can identify with them. Also village girls or abandoned girls in China are not well respected.  I want to use my little art power to challenge authority.

Someone may argue that you construct stereotypes on culture because what you have shown to viewers contains complexity. However I think you have done a great deal with clarity. What is the strength of working in photography and what are the limitations according your experience?

O:  The stereotype of Chinese contemporary art is naked Chinese women or things to do with Chinese traditional elements or Chairman Mao, etc. If you look at the Chinese contemporary art scene, it is really not easy to find artists who pay attention to Chinese remote villages or farmer¡¯s children or people who are living on the margins of society.  I don¡¯t just work in photography, but I always focus on exploring the inner power of ¡°powerless¡± people.

What motivated you to go to London? How did this journey affect your observations and your identity? How have these experiences influenced your work?

O: To be honest, I was disappointed by the male prejudice in the art world at that time. So I wanted to breathe some fresh air outside of the country - from a remote village in China to a center of international capitalism (NYC) in the USA. I have traveled a long way, and the rhythm of my life is mutable and pretty complex. The constant changing of my residency has made me cherish the idea that I can live ¡°at home¡± as an outsider. So I am interested in exploring the areas where things are mixed and then gradually become familiar; areas that were once remote, strange, and unnatural.  Making art is a means of addressing my own cross-cultural identity.

Are you working back and forth between China and New York?

O:  Yes. About three months every year in China.

What challenges do you face working in New York as a Chinese artist in contrast to China?

O:  So many good artists are working in NYC, so you really need to be outstanding in order to survive. In order to join the New York art world, I can only work harder and bring in good quality and concepts to my work. But in China, it will be much easier because the art world there is very small.

Fundamentally your work seems to criticize the way that people on the outside portray the Chinese, and it speaks out on the values of China.  Your adaptations regarding former Chinese leaders like in the ¡®Mao Zedong¡¯ propaganda poster and Deng Xiaoping¡¯s slogan are strongly portrayed in ¡°The World Is Yours (But also Ours)¡±.  I am curious about how you interpret the Cultural Revolution era and its effect on the younger generation?

O: ¡°The World Is Yours (But also Ours)¡± also contains contemporary advertising and signage. For example soccer star David Beckham¡¯s body tattoo and dialogue from the ¡°Kung Fu Panda¡± movie. The mix of modern and old slogans shapes our society.

What is your tone? (Educating, Insisting or questioning with openness?)

O: O is for openness.

You were born in 1976 when Mao had already passed away. How do your memory and experiences affect your work? Could you explain your generation especially in China

O: I was born towards the end of 1976 after Mao had passed away. I wrote a Chinese book called ¡°An Empire Where The Moon Light Never Fades¡±  xxx to describe my journey of growing up . Moon represents ¡°home¡±, home is where the heart is. The book was on the best seller list for 4 weeks in Guangzhou.  Most of the readers are young.  My generation is more connected to the outside world than almost any other previous Chinese generation.

What is your next project?

O: I will give a solo show at The Queens Museum of Art in New York from Nov to March. ¡°Cutting The Blaze to New Frontiers¡± commemorates the 70th anniversary of the 1939 New York World¡¯s Fair.  Its forward looking aspirations are appropriate in this time of the nation¡¯s current financial crisis. I create a mini world¡¯s fair in the museum¡¯s former World¡¯s Fair space by erecting various national pavilions hand crafted by groups of teenagers who have never visited the countries of their parents. Teenagers are asked to communicate with their parents, which helps them to understand their own roots and culture. They will then build pavilions of their ¡®imaginary¡¯ motherlands of origin.

(The exhibition will be held until November 29, 2009)

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DIVERSE 5th Issue

We are pleased to announce that DIVERSE 5th issue, Summer 2011 has been released.  

12 Diversity in Canadian Workplaces What are the obstacles to a better form of ¡°diversity¡± in the workplace?

- Open Door Group

- BC Workplace Diversity Inclusion Awards

6 BC¡¯s Diversity through 30 portraits

 

ART

2 ThePower of Exchange A Historic Collaboration between Germany¡¯s

Premiere Art Collections and Canada¡¯s First Nations

28 Ezra Kwizera  Born in Uganda to Rwandese refugee parents, Canadian Musician and genocide  survivor speaks on the art of  forgiveness and of adapting to Canadian culture

42 Dana Claxton  

The Mustang Suite: Questioning mobility, freedom and autonomy 

CULTURE

24 Gung Haggis Fat Choy in Vancouver, BC: The Diversity of Canada      

38 Denise Brillon Breaking barriers in the fashion world

 

HERITAGE

32 Pysanky¡¯s Resurgence

Joan Brander¡¯s contribution to the renaissance in traditional

Ukrainian egg art

OPINIONS

10 Publisher¡¯s Note

27 Benefits of being a bilingual writer

31 Canadians come in all differences

 

NEWS & INFORMATIONS

35 News Briefs on Multiculturalism

36 Publisher¡¯s Picks

 

You Can Order Here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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