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Kenneth Tin-Kin Hung, “The Travelogue of Dr. Brain Damages After Maorilyn Maoroe got biatchslaped by flying hotdogs in Mahler Gobi desert, Grass Mud Horse invites her for a beer pong game” (2011), digital print on canvas, 36 x 48 X 4 in. Hung’s work incorporates the Grass Mud Horse, a pun that’s become a huge meme in China in response to government censorship of the internet. (image courtesy Postmasters Gallery, New York)

In an uncomfortable echo of the reeducation campaigns of Mao Zedong’s Cultural Revolution, Chinese President Xi Jinping has announced that artists, filmmakers, and TV staff will be sent to live and work in rural villages so that they will “form a correct view of art and create more masterpieces,” China’s official news agency, Xinhua, announced.

The plan, which comes from the State General Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film, and Television, calls for film and TV series production staff to visit “grassroots communities, villages, and mining sites to do field study and experience life” quarterly; and for certain groups of TV and film staff “to live among the masses each year” for at least 30 days in “ethnic minority and border areas,” as well as towns that are seen as playing an important role in the Cultural Revolution.

The announcement comes less than two months after Xi gave a speech illuminating his position on art in society. Artists should “disseminate contemporary Chinese values,” Xi said then, and: “The creation of art can fly with the wings of imagination … but make sure art workers tread on solid earth.” The new campaign seems meant to ensure the latter.

The State General Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film, and Television also announced in the past week a ban on puns and wordplay. The rationale is that wordplay “breaches the law on standard spoken and written Chinese, makes promoting cultural heritage harder and may mislead the public – especially children,” according to the Guardian. All media must hereafter “strictly comply with the standard spelling and use of characters, words, phrases, and idioms – and avoid changing the characters, phrasing and meanings.” The move may be an attempt to crack down on Chinese citizens who’ve taken to using wordplay, often on the internet, to slyly express their opposition to the government.

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Jillian Steinhauer

Jillian Steinhauer is a former senior editor of Hyperallergic. She writes largely about the intersection of art...

5 replies on “China Will Send Artists to Live and Work in Rural Areas”

  1. Would you please credit the image: Kenneth Tin Kin Hung, “The Travelogue
    of Dr. Brain Damages After Maorilyn Maoroe got biatchslaped by flying hotdogs in Mahler Gobi desert, Grass Mud Horse invites her for a beer pong games,” 2011, digital print on canvas, 36 x 48 X 4 inches. Courtesy of Postmasters Gallery, New York


  2. OMG this is appalling. I constantly rail about the shitty screws that they make (and are sold at Home Depot and everywhere else), the heads of which strip even as you’re screwing them in. Which makes for a dumb joke about another way they’ve figured out to screw people. But I feel the need to make a (bad) joke because otherwise I would just be screaming in anger. Anyone who has read about what happened to people “sent to the country” back in the days of Mao, this is very frightening, disgusting, and every other bad thing. Grrrr…..And of course it says they’re sent for short periods of time, but when one says “at least 30 days,” then at most can be for years, right?

  3. Why is this disturbing, on this site of all places? This is exactly what the majority of American arts opinionators are demanding of the arts, that they somehow get off their high horses, step out of their institutions and “take it to the people”. It’s amazing how utterly communist in philosophy these people can be and yet when actual communists are doing it, they cry foul and tyranny.

  4. With luck they’ll be exposed to grassroots despair at official corruption, embezzlement, and theft of people’s land, at heavy metal pollution of entire villagers, at being beaten up by gangs of plainclothes thugs whenever they try to lodge a petition, at the obscene display of wealth by the filthy rich, at the arbitrary jailing of journalists, lawyers and civil rights advocates, and at the general suppression of freedom of thought, religion, speech and action – all of which will make them better artists.

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