Mei Xian Qiu
Let a Thousand Flowers Bloom,” a series of photographs portraying a Chinese takeover of the United States, is a popular partial Western misquotation of Mao Zedong’s “Let a Hundred Flowers Blossom, Let a Hundred Schools of Thought Contend.” Taken from classical Chinese poetry, Mao used this slogan to proclaim a great society where arts, academia, and “a hundred schools of thought contend.” As a result, artists and academics came out of hiding and there was a brief flowering of culture.
In the photographs, hidden political dangers are suggested and must be addressed urgently, but are put aside momentarily, subsumed to the romance of“the beautiful idea.” The models for the imagery are Pan Asian American artists, and academics specializing in Chinese culture, the very group at risk in a Hundred Flowers Movement. The costumes are discarded U.S. military uniforms, cheongsams constructed for the photographs, and Chinese mock ups taken from a Beijing photography studio, specializing in getups for foreign tourists to re-enact Cultural Revolution Propaganda imagery.
Growing up in Java as a third generation Chinese Diasporic minority during a time when being Chinese was unlawful, Qiureconstructed the unknown, fantastical notions of culture, self-invented and -- by dissecting essential archetypes, revelatory and iconic. This type of flexible self-view and easy piercings of notions of the impermeable interior self, are in keeping with the new contemporary landscape of commonplace transience and a growing global mono culture. After her family immigrated to the U.S. in response to genocide, Qiu visited China five times only to learn it was eagerly shedding its own past culture in order to embrace modernity. She realized there was an American flip side to the issues of alienation and Western influence often addressed in Chinese contemporary art. Visual and other Information and iconography are filtered, regurgitated, simplified, and raped of original meaning. A global individual constantly bombarded by this information, cultural imprints if you will, real, malformed and fiction, becomes its product, harboring a displaced self-view determined by the views of others.