“How has your work changed?” I ask Sazi, a performance artist. “My work is increasingly reflective of the real,” says Sazi, smiling above his beard. Slightly rotund but exuding the strength of physical work, Sazi sits on a crumpled blue sheet on his twin bed, clothes strewn and stuffed dolls tucked into the corner. This is his bedroom and also his art studio, in Songzhuang, an art village on the outskirts of Beijing where Sazi has been on and off for the last ten years.

In Sazi’s Gobi Wedding, women wear bridal dresses and stand on the sides of train tracks, visible to passing passengers. The work engages the urban-to-rural migration characterizing the last several decades in China, creating what Sazi calls a “connecting thread” to the hometown. In his Walking in the Bosom of Mother Earth, Sazi walks from Beijing back to his hometown in Xinjiang, eating and sleeping outside on the way. “You’re deeply in nature then” Sazi says. Many people in China don’t live at home and share Sazi’s feeling of homesickness; it’s not like you get back home and then feel the sense of place you’ve been longing for.... on the journey you’ve already returned, he explains. Sazi applied to the Ministry of Culture to show the piece, and was denied, saying he believes it was because performance art is politically sensitive. Was it Xinjiang? Was it invoking a longing for home, interpellating a wide public in sentiments of regret, discontent and nostalgia? Was it glorifying the rural? The past? Sazi said the Chinese government wants traditional work, not this new stuff.

Walking, standing, heaving, moving objects, taking up the body in the expression of life’s big themes, Sazi’s work is stunning, and it’s consistently condemned. Songzhuang artists are no strangers to censorship; their annual film festival is often cancelled at the last minute. Now their very residence in the area is coming under threat; Beijing has recently begun building government housing nearby and the art village, founded in an organic fashion as artists found the place -remote, dusty, poor- suitable for their creative practice (and their budgets), could be demolished any day.

Commentary on Rachel Tanur's Works: US Sign

More like : You can tell the ideals of a nation by its advertising. A nation is a constructed entity; you can tell the ideas of a nation by its advertising but not the ideas of its people. In America advertisements teach us about ideal citizenship: you must be thin, rich, straight, white, happy, able-bodied. Advertisements present an unattainable life. These are the values of many, but not all. Look outside the frame of the image, in the America of unrepresented lives, and you see forms of love that are almost never used to sell jeans: sacrifices made for children, gay desire and family, real community, love of god, and the most radical of all: love of self, without all the things the adverts tell you you need. In a predominantly capitalist nation like America, advertisement produces need for commodities to ensure the production of profit. To make profit people must believe they need things which they do not; they must adhere to the rules of excess in order for excess to continue to circulate, maintaining and intensifying the darling of capitalism: inequality. In a socialist system like that of Mao or Stalin, where the marriage of economics and politics takes on a different form, there need only be one kind of advertisement - that promoting the party, the great leader and the system- selling the nation to its people so that they continue to make their worlds in its image. The image of the great leader doesn’t sell something material, yet it advertises; interpellating a public to have their hearts and minds sold in exchange for inclusion in the system. Guy Debord writes, “Every new lie of advertising is also an avowal of the previous lie. The fall of every figure with totalitarian power reveals the illusory community which had approved him unanimously, and which had been nothing more than an agglomeration of solitudes without illusions” (Debord: 1983: 70). Advertisements tell us what ideas get sold to the masses, making their way around and around, seemingly uncontrolled like a swing at a carnival. You’re sure you’re going to fly off. In this image, the text is written on a marquee outside a theatre, whether movie or otherwise. The style itself refers us to the system at hand: the cinematic, the ideals of a 1950s Hollywood, real or imagined- glamorous, decadent. The America revealed is one with ideals of celebrity culture rather than ideals of the real, the ordinary, the poor. The sign itself is a kind of advertisement for the show inside. It presents us with the trap that images- which advertisements always are- produce; we cannot unsee them, nor can we know the world we live in without their influence. The world is imaged for us, imagined through the pictures we consume rather than the dreams we produce. Our dream worlds are not our own, but, we imagine, our reality is. Reference Debord, Guy. 1982. Society of the Spectacle. Detroit: Black and Red.