The research project ‘Posters of the Cultural Revolution: Contemporary Chinese Perspectives on an Era of Propaganda’ was funded by the Australian Research Council in 2008-2010. We acknowledge that support with gratitude. We were also supported by the University of Sydney, RMIT University, and the University of Westminster in mounting the exhibition, which has become a focus of the ongoing project as we observed those who visited the show, and listened to their responses in later discussions. We hope that these shows contribute an example of the role of exhibitions in providing a space where new ideas can be encountered and old feelings or memories re-examined. We are delighted that over 14000 people have visited across the two locations (Melbourne and Sydney), many of them Chinese nationals and Chinese Australians. And, of course, we thank the artists who have given of their time and lent their works for us to enjoy and learn from.
The project focuses on memory and forgetting in China, and questions how and why contemporary media forms deploy revolutionary period images and nostalgia. It re-evaluates the Cultural Revolution through an analysis of visual communications in China in the 1960s and 1970s. This website is a companion to the project’s publications and aims and shares with you some of the images and representations of the period which, for us, form a valuable dialogic relation between past and present. These dialogues between posters and paintings, and between contemporary critique and older propaganda (which also includes critique of a different sort) were presented in two Australian galleries in 2010 and 2011. Over 14000 people saw the shows and many also attended public lectures and events organised to discuss the themes and artworks. The exhibition had one key aim: to open up a space for critical reflection and discussion on a period of Chinese history that, whilst increasingly well understood and documented by Chinese and overseas historians, is nonetheless a public secret in China itself. Our many visitors were a testament to the success of that objective, and we hope that you also gain some insights (or can offer some to us) from browsing the images we include here.
Focusing on posters, and eliciting perspectives from the memories of those represented in poster art, as well as professional image-makers contemporary both to that period and to the present era, the project has aimed to discover the continuing influence of the posters as a medium for public communication, as an art form and as a visual repository of personal recollection. We have worked with artists represented on this site, but also with older painters whose artistic lives were shaped by the events of the 1960s.
The project is continuing in Beijing and Shanghai in 2011, with more attention to the traces of Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution (GPCR) styles and tropes in communications media. We are also working on the final iterative stage of the project: talking to older people who were not directly involved in the making of the posters and thereby making sure that we have incorporated their sense of time passing and time staying still in our account.