Entry Title: "Visions of Utopia"
Lisa Scharoun and France Tatarovic,
Since 1949, propaganda posters have been produced in China as a visual language to unite the masses. Posters and billboards portraying images of youth in minority costumes, traditional paper cuts and Chinas abundant workforce engaged in modernisation were meant to unite the masses through revolutionary realism with revolutionary romanticism. These images offer interesting insight into Maos version socialist utopia.
With the opening of China to foreign investment and trade in 1979, the vision of a socialist utopia has changed once again. Propaganda posters are replaced with large-scale billboards featuring luxury cars, clothing and products from the West.
In order to conceptualize this change in visual culture, we have created a series of images that utilize similar themes of Maoist era propaganda posters and questions the view of utopia in both eastern and western cultures. The images reference techniques and the visual language of contemporary commercial photography. Within the artworks, the past and present visual culture of China is juxtaposed to create a dialogue between the icons of the Maoist vision and the contemporary visions of utopia.
Reviews of the work:
Scharoun and Tatarovic have selected certain iconic poster titles from 1958 to 1983 and reworked the associated imagery to produce new images displaying a high degree of irony in their juxtaposition of signifying elements. This appropriation of the mass-produced, industrial kitsch of propaganda imagery serves to provoke questions about the utopian dreams of Marxist-Leninist-Mao Zedong thought, the Western cockroach capitalism of the early 21st century and the strange amalgamation of both found within contemporary P. R. China.
In this series of images, Scharoun and Tatarovics revolutionary/utopian youths, a boy and a girl, have been replaced by empty ciphers. As such they have become free-floating signifiers, able to stand-in for smiling young revolutionaries, future utopian workers or the faceless citizens required for capitalist consumption. Cut out from the various scenarios of abundance, perhaps they have already been excised from Utopia?
Excerpt from New Worlds for Old, Visions of Utopia
Associate Professor Leon Marvell (Deakin University)