Magazine article Artforum International

Hong Hao Beijing Commune

Magazine article Artforum International

Hong Hao Beijing Commune

Article excerpt

For the past decade, Hong Hao has made work that deals in the economies and aesthetics of accumulation. "My Things," a photographic series begun in 2001, is made up of composite images derived from the scanned photographs of the artist's possessions. The objects range from the mundane to the whimsical--books, toilet paper, passport, pens, wallet, toothpaste, letters, and so on. The effect is both intimate and overwhelming. At the time, the series was read as a statement on excess and contemporary China's burgeoning material and capitalist culture. One piece in particular, My Things No. 6--The Hangover of Revolution in My Home, 2002, featuring all the objects from Hong's house relating to the Cultural Revolution era, served as the exception that proves the rule, making explicit the tension between Communist history and the consumerist present.

The fascination with found objects continued in Hong's latest exhibition, "As It Is." Scraps of the artist's own napkins, notes, receipts, correspondence, and other kinds of paper were combined into obsessive displays of collectorship, intricate arrangements of structure. Hong has chosen to display the blank backside of these documents, copying in pencil the outline of words or images from the front with a slavish attention to detail so that they read backward. The materials generally manifest transactions, some literally, as in Parasitizing--Trade (all works 2011), which displays a history of hefty transactions from a bank slip in reverse. But whether or not they deal in cash, all of the documents in the show render an exchange of goods, of histories, of thoughts, of feelings, and, above all, of ideologies. Here, the detritus of society is society.

Often, the pieces highlight a single phrase. In Reborn--All Are Paper Tigers, the Chinese characters for the work's subtitle are traced backward, in pencil, on the reverse of a Socialist-era poster, the red background and outline of Mao Zedong's face clearly visible through the yellowing original. …

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