Archive for February, 2011

memory at a standstill

Monday, February 7th, 2011

“Yet the key brings him face to face with more mysteries he cannot sort out and more memories suspended between fiction and reality” (204).

 The “key” refers to the “skeleton key” that Xiaojun uses to gain access to people’s homes, to their “private spaces,” that represent for him “an alternative fantasy world” similar to the imaginary world where most Chinese reconstruct memories (the “collective memory”) of the Cultural Revolution, a time when Mao used a key of myth and rhetoric (“Maospeak”) to invade and dominate their lives.  But how accurate are reconstructed memories of suffering that evoke hope, terror, and regret?

 The Cultural Revolution unleashed the frustration and anger of a new generation eager to change the world, but the force was harnessed and used by Mao and his cohorts for a decidedly different purpose – total domination.  Mao caught the Chinese people unawares and played an aggressive game with their expectations, invoking heroism while engaging in repression and violence to suppress public discourse and debate.  Reconstructed memories of the Cultural Revolution symbolize a collective inability (or unwillingness) to confront powerful images of self-doubt; to record a reality that arouses shame and guilt for not having resisted more tenaciously the seductive allure of Mao’s beguiling rhetoric, a pernicious force that hung over an entire country like a dark veil disguised as bright, life-sustaining sun.  The more time that passes, the harder it becomes to make sense of one of the most catastrophic and complicated mass movements and political upheavals to afflict China.  The fading fragments of reality that haunt the collective memory provide only a glimmer of comprehension that “blurs the distinction between history and fiction” (193).   Reconstructed memories of the Cultural Revolution seem refracted as through a prism, repressed reminders of a trauma-ridden history and the dreadfulness of human vulnerability.

Marching Poster

Tuesday, February 1st, 2011

 There is no direct link to the picture so I had to use this.  My poster is in the 1974-1975 section, in the third row, and is the poster second from the right in that row.

Titled “March Bravely Forward Along the Glorious Road of Mao’s May 7th Directive,” this poster was produced by the Chinese People’s Revolutionary Military Affairs Museum in Beijing.  Although reportedly published in 1975, the poster depicts the proletarian solidarity and collective unity that formed the foundation of Mao’s visionary idealism, expressed at the very beginning of the Cultural Revolution on 7 May 1966 in his first and perhaps most revolutionary directive.  Mao’s May 7th directive stipulates that the masses should diversify their activities and that there should be no specialization or exclusivity in the fields of work.  In the absence of war, soldiers should learn politics, engage in agriculture, and work in factories; factory workers should, in addition to their main industrial work, learn military affairs, politics, and culture; and communes, in addition to their main agricultural work, should also learn military affairs, politics, and culture.

The poster reflects this directive in several ways, as it shows a diverse group of hundreds and perhaps thousands of People’s Liberation Army soldiers, military nurses, factory workers, farmers, and national guards massed in formation and marching forward with determination across a field adjacent to a distant body of water.  They depict the vanguard of a movement and convey the uplifting activity of revolutionary practice; the solidarity, focus, collective unity, and diversity that Mao sought to achieve.  Soldiers occupy the primary position in the poster, but are seen carrying tools, such as shovels and hammers, normally associated with workers; soldiers are also seen carrying buckets and baskets that hang from yokes across their backs, normally associated with peasant farmers; alluding to gender equality, a woman is seen carrying a rifle normally associated with male soldiers; and they all appear to be happy, well-fed, energetic, and confident.  Strong and vibrant colors dominate the poster, from the brilliant red of the flags to the ruddy complexion of the marchers.  Several marchers are carrying a large red flag and the soldier in front proudly holds aloft the “Little Red Book” of quotations from Chairman Mao, a clear reminder of loyalty to his leadership.  The woman soldier in the background holds a placard that says “Conduct Revolutionary Big Criticism,” a clear reference to the Cultural Revolution’s attack on the privileged position of professionals and intellectuals as well as the symbols associated with the feudal past.

 The poster conveys strength, unity, diversified activity, determination, and happiness, and provides a clear visual link to Mao’s May 7th directive.  In a way, however, the poster hints at a sense of desperation on the part of the Chinese Communist Party.  Reportedly published in 1975, the poster urges the masses to “march bravely forward” to accomplish objectives established almost a decade earlier.  If Mao’s May 7 directive had produced positive results, it seems there would have been no need to urge the masses to bravely slog along nine years later