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Weng Naiqiang, “Reading from the Quotations of Chairman Mao,” 1966

The May/June issue of ART PAPERS came in the mail yesterday, with my review of FotoFest’s Photography from China right there on pp. 48-9. The review isn’t online, but if you have plenty of time to kill, you can read my longer, three-part writeup at Glasstire. [Part 1, Part 2, Part 3] Or, of course, there’s the option of picking up a hard copy of the magazine.

Aside from a rundown of the mostly incredible work, here’s the nutshell version of my piece: Trying to understand contemporary Chinese photography (or anything else) without knowing about its history is like hearing a poem in a foreign language. You might pick up on pleasant-sounding words, but you won’t have any real idea what the person is talking about. Unfortunately, our culture is marked by unrestrained consumption at the moment, and our demand for the most novel and nubile of everything has resulted in a pandemic, unhealthy disregard for history.

As my friend Jon wrote, “To hell with the New… It’s getting clearer all the time that most of what passes for the New is just a way of forgetting what really matters.”

Wu Jialin Yunnan Province, n.d.

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