To act out of one’s desire that has been purposefully cloaked under ideology is in fact a direct transgression against the state.
By Brad Feuerhelm, ASX, April 2015
First, let it be said that this oversize production by dienacht of Ren Hang’s work is lush and beautifully crafted. The pages overlap and folds of the bodies within become further entangled in a well thought through production.
Ren Hang has made it a point to say that he is not making work that is politicized. He has been aligned with Ai Weiwei in the past and the socio-political action of uncovering years of communist censorship in producing sexually-charged Chinese bodies in his oeuvre are a direct consequence of globalization and a shift towards how Hang looks at his own desires within the system. To say that he is not politically active is a bit disingenuous within the framework of his production. It is as if to say, he wants to push the boundaries of how we look at his desire and the naked Chinese form without enmity. This seems a bit hopeful given the current mood of Chinese government suppression.
To act out of one’s desire that has been purposefully cloaked under ideology is in fact a direct transgression against the state. This will likely have a further consequence to Hang’s life and work as his aesthetic and work travels globally. I would expect we will see some control apparatus to further intervene at some point. It’s easy to sit here from the west and champion his work. It is beautiful, if a bit of a one-trick pony. It could also be questioned that we are observing the hidden or unseen Chinese body with some amount of spectacle. There is almost a voyeuristic tourism involved by the western eye bound to the boom of his career.
Within Hang’s production, there is a tendency to use idealized models as his subject matter. That is not to say that it is Hang’s problem to represent the body any differently, but it is a question we should consider while viewing the spectacle of its presence.
His work, though superb owes much to the tradition of Helmut Newton and western fashion employ of the sexualized body. Within the framework of looking at his work through western eyes, I almost recall a feeling of being at a human zoo. I’m not sure what this says about the work or myself, but for the time being, it seems important that it is conducted. I do hope Hang will find the freedom to continue the creation of work. My more sincere hope is that it evolves and enables a further communication outside that of the sexualized idealism that it currently panders to within Chinese culture. Perhaps this is also why the work should not be read as political after all as the idealized nude is something the west has been investigating for some time. We have struggled to understand our body and the ideals pushed on us through consumer culture and gender dis-equilibrium. Within Hang’s production, there is a tendency to use idealized models as his subject matter. That is not to say that it is Hang’s problem to represent the body any differently, but it is a question we should consider while viewing the spectacle of its presence.
(book size: posters folded to 28 x 40 cm, open size 56 x 40 cm)
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(All rights reserved. Text @ Brad Feuerhelm. Images @ Ren Hang.)