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Cultural Revolution 1966-1976
Dazibao (Big Character Poster) Art
This collection of hundreds of Dazibao (Big Character Posters) came to me just by chance when they were used as wrapping paper for Cultural Revolution artifacts and photos that I obtained. When I unwrapped them, and saw these Dazibao, I was shocked. They no longer looked as they once did when they were posted on walls to rally public opinion for political struggles. Now they resembled freehand contemporary art. I have no intention of reading these pieces now, but just enjoy their art form. They are so special and beautiful.
Such posters were the most powerful artworks of the Cultural Revolution. Each one represents the fear, violence, paranoia and chaos of that era. It was a time in which students denounced teachers as reactionaries, either because the students actually believed those accusations or because they feared that any student who did not do so would be considered a rightist-sympathizer.
Many of the posters were imaginative creations. They bore almost no link to any truth, yet had a powerful ability to drag the physical world into their illusions. In fact, Dazibao were created by Mao as a weapon in the Cultural Revolution. China is the birthplace of paper, and Mao always thought of himself as a calligrapher. Perhaps he was the only person in history to start a revolution with a paper and pen. Describing these works of calligraphy as pieces of art, as opposed to historical documents, brings up ethical considerations about what art can be used for and what it can do.
Dazibao suddenly disappeared after the Cultural Revolution, as people hated what they stood for, and nobody saw them as having any value as an art form. After finding this collection, I put ads all over the country seeking other original Dazibao peeled from walls. Nobody replied to my ads, because such posters are so rare now. Our collection is probably the only one like it in the world.
I was a university student during the Cultural Revolution. The school campus was full of Dazibao, posted on walls. Even today, when I close my eyes, I can still see them vividly in my mind. I never expected that, years later, I would be showing Dazibao as art. I smile with satisfaction when visitors walk into the exhibition room and express great surprise upon seeing the collection. I am very proud to be the first person to discover the art value of Dazibao. These posters are unsurpassed as people’s art, not only as a historical witness of the Cultural Revolution, but also as priceless treasures of Chinese contemporary art.
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