Post Utopian Dreams
exhibition, Black Space, XiaYuan, (Beijing)
The curator of my exhibition / performance in Beijing was very nervous... My chosen title "Post Utopian Dreams" was censored (utopian is a politically sensitive word). My statement was thrown out. I was told to keep my mouth shut during the opening ceremony. There was even discussion whether I could wear a dust mask or not. The exhibition was rechristened and promoted as "Return to Idealism", but the content, imagery and presentation remained as I had planned.
I have adopted the image of Lei Feng to explore a sense of disillusionment, both personal as I become another decade older, and societal as the economy starts to show its vulnerabilities to a generation of Chinese who have know nothing but explosive growth. Lei Feng was promoted as the ideal comrade by no less than Mao ZeDong. He was the Cultural Revolution's equivalent of the pin-up. He was an orphan. He was available. He was every teenage girl's heart throb, every mother's dream of the perfect son, and every boy wanted to be like him. With his perfect Cupid's bow lips, he was a balance of Righteous Anger and belief in a glorious socialist future during a violent and turbulent epoch. And like all good heroes, he died in the end, his youth and idealism intact.
But what would have happened if he hadn't died at the age of 22 (a telephone pole fell on him). What would have happened to his belief in the future? Was his Righteous Anger in vain? Would he feel his dreams of a Utopian Society were nothing but ash?.
As promised, I kept my mouth shut. The viewers did the talking - yes, lots of talking.
Christopher Pelley Lei Feng Coal Dust 280 x200cm
above Christopher Pelley Lei Feng Name coal dust, bolts
below Christopher Pelley Little Story oil/canvas each panel 60 x40cm
Christopher Pelley Landscape in the Chinese Manner oil/canvas 150 x 200cm
Coal dust and ash figured prominently in this exhibition, serving both as metaphor and material. The black paint used in the paintings was made out of ash. A large iconic portrait of Lei Feng was made from coal dust, as was the piece "Lei Feng Name". On a layer of coal dust, the characters for the name of Lei Feng were written with nuts and bolts as a reference to his statement that he was only a bolt contributing to the function of the machinery.
This exhibition was held at Black Space, Xia Yuan, Beijing, in October, 2015
Christopher Pelley Little Dream oil/canvas 80 x100cm, burnt ladder
Christopher Pelley Litlle Little Dream oil/canvas 60 x 80cm