Beijing Artist Animates Stories of the Cultural Revolution

May 18, 2001

On June 14, 2001, Dia Center for the Arts launches Phantom Tales, a work created by media artist Feng Mengbo for Dia's series of Artists' Projects for the Web. Mengbo, who was born in Beijing in 1966 and lives and works in that city, draws heavily on China's cultural and political history, as well as his own personal history, filtered through the lens of technology. Phantom Tales, which examines the violence and propaganda that permeated the storybooks of Mengbo's childhood, is the artist's first web-based project.

For Phantom Tales Mengbo turns to the Cultural Revolution, creating animations based on two widely-known storybooks and a technical guidebook. In recasting One Silver Dollar, an account by a soldier of the People's Liberation Army of his family's tragic history prior to 1949, Mengbo employs cinematic techniques to turn images appropriated from a static black-and-white picture book into an engaging and dynamic experience. The Bloody History of the Three Stones, a chronicle of the conditions suffered by workers in Tianjin City in the 1940s, is presented by Mengbo in a style analogous to the manual slide shows of his childhood, which, in the absence of television and movies, were a major source of entertainment. An animation of The Technology of Slides Shows examines a PLA manual for creating animated effects in slide shows. A soundtrack, of found music and sounds, accompanies each piece.

Phantom Tales may be seen at www.diacenter.org/mengbo. Dia and Mengbo will celebrate the project on Thursday evening, June 14, 2001, from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m., with a party in Dia's bookshop at 548 West 22nd Street, New York City.

Feng Mengbo
In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Feng Mengbo began examining Chinese popular culture, imbued as it is with political meaning, and integrating this consideration with Western iconography. His work often combines the styles and structures of video games with aspects of Chinese culture, ranging from traditional stories and legends to opera and film. Trained in design and printmaking at the Beijing School of Arts and Craft and the Central Academy of Fine Arts, in Beijing, Mengbo began exploring the computer as a medium in 1994, creating first computer slide shows and later interactive CD-ROMs and videos to bring his private cultural concerns to a wider audience and inviting the viewer to "imaginatively reshape [his or her] own cultural participation."

Mengbo's first CD-ROM, My Private Album (1996), an electronic collage of three generations of his family's pictures and memorabilia, functions as a metaphor for the nonlinear nature of memory itself while inviting the viewer into his family's private history. In his CD-ROM Taking Mount Doom by Strategy (1997), Feng Mengbo pursues his interest in "the game as art," integrating the stage and film versions of the Cultural Revolution opera Taking Tiger Mountain by Strategy with the early 1990s Western video game Doom.

Mengbo represented China in the forty-fifth Venice Biennale in 1993 and in Documenta X, the French Biennial, Korean Biennial, and South African Biennial, all in 1997. In the fall of 1998, the Holly Solomon Gallery, in New York, and The Haggerty Museum, in Milwaukee, collaborated with Mengbo to present his first United States museum exhibition. Early next year Mengbo will have an exhibition at the Renaissance Society in Chicago.

Artists' Projects for the Web
Beginning in early 1995, as part of its efforts to facilitate direct experience between audiences and works of art, Dia initiated a series of web-based works, and became the first arts organization to foster the use of the world wide web as an artistic and conceptual medium. Previous projects, which can still be visited on Dia's website, include David Claerbout's Present (2000), Stephen Vitiello's Tetrasomia (2000), Gary Simmons's Wake (2000), Francis Alÿs's The Thief (1999), Arturo Herrera's Almost Home (1998), Diller + Scofidio's Refresh (1998), and Kristin Lucas's Between a Rock and a Hard Drive (1998). All may be viewed at www.diacenter.org.

Dia's series of Artists' Projects for the Web has been funded in part by the New York State Council on the Arts. A tax-exempt charitable organization established in 1974, Dia has become one of the largest organizations in the United States dedicated to contemporary art and culture. In fulfilling this commitment, Dia sustains diverse programming in the visual arts, as well as in poetry, education, and critical discourse and debate.

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For additional information or materials contact:
Press Department, Dia Art Foundation, press@diaart.org or 212 293 5518

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