Art Strategies

Class 8 : Ask the Confucius

This week I decided to work on the project that was created by Zhang Huan, “Ask the Confucius”, in Chinese “问孔子”,孔子 is Confucius, however. 问 can be understand as “ask,  try to figure out, confront”.

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This piece was created on 2011, I was a high schooler when I first saw it on magazine and immediately got so shocked.

One thing to notice is that the size of the work, big enough to see every detail on his body, to see the human side of him. However it is so big that you need to look up to, also make the suggestion that, he is a man with such great impact.

Confucius has never been portray like this, naked, so real, so not “holly”, with not saggy skin with pores and senile plaques. Of course, the hair, eyes brow and bread are strong enough to tell that this is Confucius, someone that has such a great impact on Chinese culture and Asian culture in general. He is the one that I know since when I learn how to read. He’s always been portray like these: “holly” man with prefect clothes and decent look.

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What this work reminds me is that how the people can deify one person, that we even build up the temples for him, an educator was respected like a buddha. And how in Cultural Revolution, after thousands of years since his death, all in a sudden we stand so much against him and we smashed the temples under the idea of the holly man of that time-Mao Zedong.

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In this piece, Zhuang Huan made Confucius human again, without the outfit that usually define the dynasty he lived in, makes him looked modern somehow, and we tend to lost the and his social status, he looked no more than a aged old Chinese man with a mark of Chinese cupping glass.

Zhang Huan’s work is often quite strong at first sight, and something that  could be a rebel, however they are all deeply rooted in Chinese culture.

The usage of the skin texture and is also common in Zhang Huan’s other work, such as 知天命 (know god’s will), and Buddha face. 知天命 is a piece that I saw in person in Shanghai, like Ask the Confucius  it’s impossible to ignore the size, and the smell of cow skin, it is so strong that made me sick even. 知天命 is idiom that was brought up by Confucius that means after a certain age, usually 50s, people will know the arrangement of god, that they will stop fighting for things in life. The face in the piece reminds me of a mix baby and a 50 year old man, which means both innocent and sophisticated in the same time, the human face and body is made of and .twisted up with the dead cow skin, that at first it was a symbol of the cruelty of human. Yet also, the human therefore survive because of the hunting of other animal, that is the god’s arrangement.

Something to declare here is that, the word “god” I used here is “天”, which is the thing that mighty thing, not the god in western culture.

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