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6 The Awakening of Insects

Liu Dahong

2007 (based on 1988 oil painting)
Print 101 x 74cm
Shanghai
Courtesy of Liu Dahong

The Reform era (1978- ) was the brainchild of Deng Xiaoping. Deng advocated economic reforms in the early 1960s, and this reformist challenge to Mao’s ascendancy was one factor in the struggles for power that led to the Cultural Revolution in 1966-68. This painting reminds us that the Reform era has not been a rational and clean transition, but a confusing and wrenching lurch from ideological absolutism to a deep and wide chasm of political and economic contradiction. The painting throws everything into the chaos of change: the battle rages in churches and temples, as sixteenth-century heroic outlaws (note that ‘bandits’ now give their name ‘shanzhai’ to counterfeit phones), modern girls, intellectuals, animals, and insects fight for a sense of what the present means when there is no acknowledgment of the past. The ‘awakening of insects’ refers to the annual natural occurrence in Shandong province when the arrival of the insects indicates a seasonal shift.