Artist Wang Qingsong produces Gurksy-sized photographs critiquing the inexorable spread of advertising in China.
We’ll let him explain: Qingsong says,
My work “Competition” focuses on the power of ads and the misconceptions that ads can create. For this photo work, I constructed a chaotic backdrop where over 20 people are depicted in a frenzy of competition with some even fist fighting while jostling for ad positioning on a huge billboard advertisement; this struggle for the most optimal outdoor ad placement is perceived as inevitably bringing power and influence.
The struggle for ad placement in public space in China is not unlike a battlefield strewn with casualties after a pitched battle for power. Today one brand wins. The next day, its competitor will replace it with better positioning on public spaces. Every day, new ads go up, and old ones fall down, scattered in pieces, and discarded on the ground under newly erected billboard advertisements.
In this work, I’ve constructed a huge wall, that stands about 14 meters high and 40 meters across, and I fixed over 600 pieces of paper (110x90cm each) on which I wrote in traditional Chinese ink brush style in some instances and in felt tip pen and magic marker in others, a random selection of slogans and phrases from the advertisements that bombard us here every day. These ads include both domestic and international information about companies and famous brands, such as the lease of houses, education programs, restaurants, foot massage, etc. Everything is advertised, from items as big as airplanes (BOEING) or as small as vinegar and condoms.
On my gigantic wall, I make the fight for advertising as fierce as a struggle for military power, with inevitable casualties on the battlefield. I have also included some of the famous brands that proliferate in China, such as Shell, McDonald’s, Durex, Starbuck’s, along with a few of the anecdotes behind them and the misunderstandings that arise in translating these for a foreign audience. Altogether, I’ve used around 3000 varieties of products and services on my wall to show off the allure of this mass advertising campaign that surrounds us.
Finally, without even being able to understand English, the inundation of advertising these famous brands in China give people the impression that they can easily follow what the words say, despite their lack of English skills! In terms of visual form and content, this outdoor advertising onslaught is not unlike the big character posters (“Da zi bao“) posted by competing factions and littering city streets in China during the Cultural Revolution.
In the past the streets were hung with posters in fights over political beliefs. Now the struggle is over financial power and business gain. Ads for items are like psoriasis found everywhere on our city streets.
Link courtesy of Artkrush.
Pictured – Competition, 170 x 300 — 85x150cm, Photograph, Wang Qingsong, 2004.