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Banner intervention in Chengdu


banner intervention in public space
Southwest Jiaotong University, Chengdu
21.12.2008 - 26.12.2008
Only recently the german Max Planck research institute wanted some traditional chinese calligraphy as nice decoration for its focus on China and published 5000 copies of its magazine with a cover of a scripture advertising a brothel. Indeed one fabulous example of an idiotic western faible for the “exotic China touch”, and a great intro for my work. Thank you! (see article in The Independent)
I have been on a residency in Chengdu for the past 10 weeks. It’s my first stay in China, and I found it hard to follow my usual procedures and standards of artistic research in a context I know hardly anything about. It’s quite a short time to get to know this _fill in a billion attributes of projection_ place. For now I decided I’d rather state my own disarray and a (self-)critique of western artists cannibalizing on “cultural difference” (and an economic, at that).
The first problem might be speaking of an intervention and public space in a chinese context. Or so I found out in the preparations, getting permissions and collaborating for the translations of the banners. The problem of translation, transposition and communication is also at the base of this work:  during my stay in China I was impressed by my own disability to read the countless writings all over the city, especially the ubiquitous red banners hanging everywhere. They’re propaganda, commercials, welcomes and announcements, but also poetry, and they bring together both the traditional chinese use of public scripture and socialist propaganda. And most often they’re red, a distinct color of both mythologies.
The intervention is aimed at two pretty diverse audiences: directly at the passers-by at the campus and – through documentation – at a more or less specialized (mostly western) art audience.
So here are eight flying dragons in this symbolic grey sea, and I’m looking fwd if they produce further exchange and knowledge:
(see translations of the banners below the photos)

“Hello I am a western artist and I just wanted to let you know that I’m quite fascinated by all the banners (that i cannot read)”

“I always wondered if these banners are propaganda or poetry or advertisements or announcements - so I thought I just give it a try as well.”

“I heard that chinese is a very metaphoric and symbolic language, and then I saw red dragons in a grey sea.”

“To a westerner like me this banner looks exactly like all the other ones ”

“I asked someone to translate this text into chinese – can you tell me if you are able to understand it? write to:”
“Imagine a western curator/art-person seeing a photo of this banner”

“Can you send me the english translation of this banner?”

“I have no idea about this place but I’m going to promote it”


A great thank you to Liu Dong for the inspiring talks and the translation and Haiming Chen for organizing.


  1. Tian Shuyan wrote:

    It’s one of the ways to express the happyness of some institute.for example,a student of our college got the second prize in CCTV debate competition,which is a high prize for us,it’s time to hang the banner.It’s only my point.

    Tuesday, December 23, 2008 at 7:30 pm | Permalink
  2. freyyy wrote:

    i saw ur banner in my school…

    strange,but interesting.

    Monday, December 29, 2008 at 4:16 pm | Permalink
  3. platzregner wrote:

    nice project! strange enough to evoke neural adaptations!

    best wishes from vienna!

    Wednesday, February 11, 2009 at 7:27 pm | Permalink

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