This is what Shu Yang’s curatorial note says about the “One World, One Dream” exhibition that I found in the 798 Art Space:
‘“One World, One Dream” is the title that the “Vision Testers” is using for its 2007 Photo Show, exactly the same as that of the official slogan of the 2008 Olympic Games….
“One World, One Dream” depicts the otherwise indoor wedding shoots in the outdoors setting – newly weds posing for their best shots in the midst of real-life scenes. What makes these works different from just wedding photos is that accidental bystanders and thrill-seeking onlookers as well; as the real world that surrounds the set become part of the show….
Dragons and phoenixes are imaginary critters, non-existent in real life, They have been however, our nation’s totems. Drawn side by side, they stand for harmonious matrimony. In other cultures, though, they are nothing more than demons that appear only in nightmares. Now, think about this: Wouldn’t it be horrible if the slogan “One World, One Dream” materializes across the globe? Whether we are talking about wedding gowns or Olympic Games, the idea is to interface with Western culture. Our modernization drive, which dates back to a hundred years ago, boils down to our efforts to align ourselves with the West. To date, we have alignments in some areas and misalignments in others, thus this freak that bears resemblance to nobody. Of course, this is not unique to China only. Many non-Western cultures on the globalization bandwagon face the same problem, which is the most difficult issue troubling globalization itself. The realities in present-day China are awkward, because we have not used our brains well to think, to explore and to address issues. Instead, we have only managed to chaotically react. At the offset of China’s modernization drive, Mr. Lu Xun advocated the “Copycat Approach”. Over the decades we have copied from all over, albeit piecemeal, but have somehow misplaced everything we have copied. Perhaps we put too much emphasis on superficial things in he modernization drive and have not nurtured new wisdom, ending up with this hotchpotch with a bit of everything that do not go together. Against this background, the works in “One World, One Dream”, created by the “vision Testers”, seemingly poke fun at our lives but nevertheless serve as a wake up call.’
What the exhibition housed was in fact a series of sets, a pink boudoir, a chateau ballroom, a communist square, a Japanese cherry blossom – all accessorised with costumes and props for member of the public to dress up and be photographed in. It reminded me of a tourist trap in the Yu Gardens in Beijing which encourages visitors to have their photos taken in what look like Gilbert and Sullivan ‘traditional Chinese’ costumes. And it reminded me of end-of-pier fairground cut-outs. These sets all referred to the wedding photo sets that had been created in public spaces and shown on the photographs on the gallery wall.
But I didn’t see so many people look at the photos. They were having much too much fun, dressing up and being photographed. Some people didn’t need the props or the sets to work their angles a la America’s Next Top Model. And I did wonder whether the artists’ intention to create a dissonance between the aspirational artiness of the wedding photos and the less aesthetically polished ‘real world’, as Shu Yang called it, might have been irrelevant to many of the viewing/interacting public. In their real world (young 798 district national holiday crowd), aspiration and the glamourising photographs are all of a piece. The success of this exhibition is to have drawn a public in and in doing so drawn this out of them.