Red Humour

Red Humour
(Hongse youmo)
Artist group
An art group that uses humour to subvert the power of language, script and presentation, the Red Humour group was established in February 1986 by Wu Shanzhuan, Zhang Haizhou, Lü Haizhou, Luo Xianyue, Song Chenghua, Ni Haifeng, Huang Jian, all students from the education department of the Zhejiang Academy of Fine Arts. They were initially interested in the aesthetic quality of printed Chinese characters, which they explored in the ‘70% Red, 25% Black, 5% White’ exhibition (Zhejiang Academy of Art, May-June 1986). The exhibition drew great interest because of the absurd contrasts created by the re-contextualization of phrases from varied sources such as market language, colloquialisms, advertising, news, religion and philosophy. While visually reminiscent of the Cultural Revolution ‘big-character posters’ (dazibao), the resulting disjuncture of language created an amusing atmosphere of ‘serious absurdity’, and the space was pervaded by a Chan-inspired irreverence towards authority and the significance of human endeavour. Though the group’s existence ended after their graduation in 1986, the spirit of the group was perpetuated by some of its members. Ni Haifeng continued doing works with Chan connotations, covering buildings and objects with mystical numbers and inscriptions. He now lives in Amsterdam. Red Humour became the ‘trade mark’ of Wu Shanzhuan, who parodied the cultural values of art: selling shrimps at the ‘China Avant-Garde’ exhibition (1989) and setting up stalls of typical Chinese cultural icons such as toy pandas at various international venues. Water and the ‘no water today’ slogan are recurrent themes in his work.
Wu Shanzhuan lives in Germany where he often collaborates in artworks with his partner, Inga Svala Thorsdottir. He has taken part in major international exhibitions such as the 1995 ‘Des del País del Centre: avantguardes artístiques xineses’ at the Centre d’Art Santa Mónica in Barcelona (1995) and ‘Inside/Out: New Chinese Art’ at the Asia Society, New York, and San Francisco MoMA (1998–9).
Andrews, Julia F. and Gao, Minglu (1995). ‘The Avant-Garde’s Challenge to Official Art’. In Debora S.Davis (ed.), Urban Spaces in Contemporary China: The Potential for Autonomy and Community in Post-Mao China. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 221–78.
Lü, Peng and Yi, Dan (1992). Zhongguo xiandai yishushi [A History of Modern Art in China]. Changsha: Hunan meishu chubanshe, 295–9.
Wu, Shanzhuan (1987). ‘Women de huihua’ [Our Paintings]. Meishu sichao 1:22–4.

Encyclopedia of contemporary Chinese culture. . 2011.

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