Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Does It Seem Like a Long March to You?

Eleanor Hartney reviews Feng Mengbo's exhibition at MoMA P.S.1, New York, in the February edition of Art in America magazine.

With his 80-foot-long digital wall installation The Long March: Restart, Feng Mengbo amends Karl Marx's famous dictum: here history repeats itself not as farce but as kitsch.

. . .

In Feng's hands, the Long March becomes an elaborate video game for a single player positioned between two massive projections sprawling over opposite sides of a gallery. At P.S.1, you pass through several blind corridors to enter the darkened gallery containing the work. Appearing on the walls between play sessions is an anachronistic montage of grainy images from the Cultural Revolution era (1966–76), when the propaganda machine of the Communist government was in high gear. To the accompaniment of blaring Chinese music, the stills flash by: beaming young men and women in the uniforms of the Red Guard, mountain scenes and maps, presumably of the area traversed during the Long March, and framed portraits of a handsome young Mao.

This sequence is followed by the game's logo—a Red Army soldier astride a crushed can of Coca-Cola. The game commences with a screen on which the soldier stands poised within a giant red star in a landscape dominated by the Great Wall. The object is to move him across the horizontal stretch of the scene and on to the next scenario. He can jump, move forward and fire his weapon, loaded with exploding Coke can projectiles, at the various obstacles that come his way. There are eight such screens in all, appearing consecutively as players achieve higher levels, each with its own settings and opponents, and each requiring a successively greater degree of dexterity.

How come the sound track isn't Gang of Four?

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