Photographic Alphabet: Q is for Mei Xian Qiu

Photographic Alphabet: Q is for Mei Xian Qiu

"The Bird Cage". UV Photograph on Plexiglass substrate. 30" x 40" .  2012. © Mei Xian Qiu

"The Bird Cage". UV Photograph on Plexiglass substrate. 30" x 40"2012. © Mei Xian Qiu

Project: Let a Thousand Flowers Bloom

This series of photographs portraying a Chinese takeover of the United States, is a popular partial Western misquotation of Mao Zedong’s “Let a Hundred Flowers Blossom, Let a Hundred Schools of Thought Contend.” Taken from classical Chinese poetry, Mao used this slogan to proclaim a great society where arts, academia, and “a hundred schools of thought contend.” As a result, artists and academics came out of hiding and there was a brief flowering of culture.

"This Way to Paradise". UV Photograph on Plexiglass substrate. 36" x 23". 2012. © Mei Xian Qiu

"This Way to Paradise". UV Photograph on Plexiglass substrate. 36" x 23". 2012. © Mei Xian Qiu

"The Lovers". UV Photograph on Plexiglass substrate. 40" x 40" .  2012. © Mei Xian Qiu

"The Lovers". UV Photograph on Plexiglass substrate. 40" x 40"2012. © Mei Xian Qiu

In the photographs, hidden political dangers are suggested and must be addressed urgently, but are put aside momentarily, subsumed to the romance of “the beautiful idea.” The models for the imagery are Pan Asian American artists, and academics specializing in Chinese culture, the very group at risk in a Hundred Flowers Movement. The costumes are discarded U.S. military uniforms, cheongsams constructed for the photographs, and Chinese mock ups taken from a Beijing photography studio, specializing in getups for foreign tourists to re-enact Cultural Revolution Propaganda imagery.

"In the Manner of Gabrielle d'Estrees". UV Photograph on Plexiglass substrate. 36" x 24". 2011. © Mei Xian Qiu

"In the Manner of Gabrielle d'Estrees". UV Photograph on Plexiglass substrate. 36" x 24". 2011. © Mei Xian Qiu

"Here is the Deepest Secret that Nobody Knows". UV Photograph on Plexiglass substrate encased in Lightbox. 2013. © Mei Xian Qiu

"Here is the Deepest Secret that Nobody Knows". UV Photograph on Plexiglass substrate encased in Lightbox. 2013. © Mei Xian Qiu

Growing up in Java as a third generation Chinese Diasporic minority during a time when being Chinese was unlawful, Qiu reconstructed the unknown, fantastical notions of culture, self  invented and -- by dissecting essential archetypes, revelatory and iconic. This type of flexible self view and easy piercings of notions of the impermeable interior self, are in keeping with the new contemporary landscape of commonplace transience and a growing global mono culture. After her family immigrated to the U.S. in response to genocide, Qiu visited China five times only to learn it was eagerly shedding its own past culture in order to embrace modernity.

"8075". UV Photograph on Plexiglass substrate. 32" x 48" .  2010. © Mei Xian Qiu

"8075". UV Photograph on Plexiglass substrate. 32" x 48"2010. © Mei Xian Qiu

"8801". UV Photograph on Plexiglass substrate. 26" x 26". 2012. © Mei Xian Qiu

"8801". UV Photograph on Plexiglass substrate. 26" x 26". 2012. © Mei Xian Qiu

The photographs uses familiar symbolism and historical dystopianism, but looks squarely to the future. Never forgetful of the past, this body of work engages the constitution of the future, affirmatively critical, specifically with respect to globalism, the identity of the self and self view, the social landscape, post-colonialism, and that of the larger national body politic.

"8990". UV Photograph on Plexiglass substrate. 40" x 40". 2010. © Mei Xian Qiu

"8990". UV Photograph on Plexiglass substrate. 40" x 40". 2010. © Mei Xian Qiu

"Hollywoodland". UV Photograph on Plexiglass substrate. 36" x 18". 2010. © Mei Xian Qiu

"Hollywoodland". UV Photograph on Plexiglass substrate. 36" x 18". 2010. © Mei Xian Qiu

You can find more of Mei's work here.

Book review: Public, Private, Secret: On Photography & the Configuration of Self edited by Charlotte Cotton

Book review: Public, Private, Secret: On Photography & the Configuration of Self edited by Charlotte Cotton

Exhibition Review: Sarah Lucas - Au Naturel

Exhibition Review: Sarah Lucas - Au Naturel