Guy Laramee, “Grand Larousse” (2010) (all photos via the artist’s website)

A few years ago, artist Guy Laramee began his The Great Wall series, which imagines a 23rd century when the Chinese empire has overthrown its American rival. His artist statement is a piece of science fiction and it sets the stage for his sculptural works that tap into American anxieties about empire, civilization and, most importantly, decline [emphasis his]:

Having recently overthrown the American Empire in the 23rd century, the Chinese Empire set out to chronicle the history of the Great Panics during the 21st and 22nd centuries.

This Herculean undertaking resulted in a historiographical masterwork entitled, The Great Wall. Comprising 100 volumes, this encyclopaedia derives its name from The Great Wall of America, a monumental project to build an impregnable wall around the United States of America so as to protect this land from barbarian invasions. 150 years in the making, this wall ultimately isolated Americans from the rest of the world while sapping the country’s remaining cultural and natural resources. It also undermined the American people’s confidence in systematized hedonism, thus hastening the fall of the American Empire. As we now know this paved the way for China to invade American territory.

The Chinese Empire later ordered a group of scribes to write The Great Wall series. In the course of their duties they familiarized themselves with the libraries of the former USA. Through a strange twist of fate they thereby discovered the ancient sources of their own civilization which the new Middle Kingdom had long ago removed from its libraries. In the end this contact, primarily with Taoism and Chan (Zen) Buddhism, sowed the seeds of the Chinese Empire’s.

The objects themselves are stereotypical views of a Chinese past, one full of peace and serenity and seemingly at union with nature. Yet the objects are carved into books and parts are obviously missing. The objects, which I haven’t seen in person, seem to be begging the view to be interpreted.

Guy Laramee, “Longmen” (2010)

Guy Laramee, “Ryoanji” (2010)

Detail of Guy Laramee’s “Ryoanji” (2010)

Untitled work in “The Great Wall” series.

For more images from The Great Wall series,

Hrag Vartanian is editor-in-chief and co-founder of Hyperallergic.

One reply on “Looking Back After China Takes Over”

  1. Noticed in the artist’s bio that he has a parallel investigation into anthropology, which fits with the “long view” apparent in his work.  Science fiction can also be thought of as extrapolated anthropology.  Like these, and well shot, too.

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