Red Army’s Route of Crossing the Chishui River
On January 29, 1935, after crossing the Chishui River, Mao gave away his newborn and unnamed daughter. Mao and his second wife had previously given away their first child, also without naming her. Later, in Longyan County, Mao again gave away a baby boy named Maomao. None of these three children have ever been found. The motivations for giving away children are certainly complex. Perhaps they stemmed from the idealistic notion of sacrificing the individual in favor of the collective. This ideal is still in evidence today as seen in Confucionism and filial piety. But perhaps it was also a sacrifice for the good of the child. These children almost certainly would never have survived the treacherous march.
Che visits Mao in China
On Feburary 3, 1935, Mao arrived in the ‘Jimingsanchuan’ (literally meaning, ‘you can hear a rooster crow from the surrounding three provinces’) village in Shixianzhi, 160 Chinese miles away from Xuyong County in Sichuang Province. This Yi minority village still has original traces of Red Army slogans written on its walls. In a meeting there, Luofu replaced Bogu as the head of the party and the army marched onward.
Li De (Otto Brun)
On Feburary 25th, 1935, the Red Army had its first victory in Luoshangguang Pass and entered Zunyi City for the second time.
On March 4th 1935, after a meeting that took place in the local Catholic church, Mao became Political Leader in charge of the Avant-garde brigade.
On March 16th 1935, the Central Committee arrived in Maotai, Renhuai County. This was the third time they had crossed the Chishui River.
Maotai, here the liquor and not the town, is the most popular brand name in China, widely recognized as the “king of alcohol.” Although the Chinese public is under the impression that Maotai’s brand history is long and rich, reaching back to the imperial dynasties, this achievement is an illusion successfully propogated by relatively recent Culture of Wine campaigns. In actuality, Maotai’s heroic image, to a certain extent, is connected with two laowai (a frequently used and somewhat derogatory term for ‘foreigner’ of the more recent past.
The first laowai is Edgar Snow, who in Red Star Over China gave one of the first widely read accounts of the Red Army and its journey. In his book Snow described how, when the Avant-Garde arrived at the Maotai Winery after crossing the river, they mistook the alcohol for warm water. They washed their tired feet with the ‘water’ to rejuvinate and stimulate their circulation and qi. The only foreigner in the army, the German Otto Brun, was among the first people to become drunk after discovering another, perhaps more stimulating use of the ‘water.’ The story concluded with not one drop of Maotai wine being left after the army passed through town.
The second laowai is Richard Nixon, the former US President. In the 70s, right after China opened its door to the outside world, stories and anecdotes surrounding Nixon were very popular. One particular tale is still told of an evening when Nixon and Premier Zhou Enlai engaged in multiple toasts of ganbei (bottoms up) with Maotai. In the end, it was Nixon who was drunk while Zhou was said to be completely sober due to the fact that he only pretended to drink maotai, but all the while, drank a clear liquid that looks exactly like maotai: water. Zhou’s cunning and deceptive behavior is regarded by the Chinese as an intelligent method of dealing with foreigners, while Nixon’s drunkenness is used to fuel the Chinese stereotypic imagination of foreigners as bumbling fools, unable to tell truth from lies. The popularity of this tale is also indicative of and used to symbolize the sense of injustice in the Chinese peoples’ collective psyches. China has historically felt misunderstood due to foreigners’ inability to judge the truth, beginning with the Opium War and lasting through to more recent incidents resulting in manifestations of nationalistic thought. Maotai is thus seen as having the ability to divide the Wise (those who are oppressed) from the Ignorant (those who can afford to be unwise).
Exhibition – Individual and Society (Pollock vs. Che)
Distribute flyers of excerpts from Memoir by Otto Brun, Spook Art – Was the CIA Really Behind the Rise of Abstract Expressionism by David Wise (Art News, September 2000) and Frances Stonor Saunderse, The Cultural Cold War: The CIA and the World of Arts and Letters.
Discuss the special issue of World Art, one of the most popular art journals in China, focusing on the work of Jackson Pollock. In this issue, Pollock’s technique and the meaning of form in abstraction are considered only through Formalist and High Modernist analysis. We will expand the forum of discussion to how the understanding of Pollock and other imported Western artists and their surrounding discourse are related to not only artistic, but societal development within China. It can be argued that the introduction of Pollock and these other artists, which began in the 80s, influenced the transformation of Chinese ideology, both original traditional thought and Communist dominant discourse, towards the inclusion of market capitalism and the related narration of democracy.
We will question how the evolution of the Chinese artists’ ego has been informed by this twist of display culture and visual politics. Is the discussion of the individual versus the collective, one so hotly debated before the 80s, still relevant today? How do we perceive the differences and similarities between Confucius’ and Marx’s view of class? Both recognize the hierarchies of class, but Confucius’ philosophy encourages acceptance and tolerance of this division as a means to a peaceful society, while Marx views economic exploitation through class structure as a condition against which the exploited must struggle. How are these views related to the Western audience’s criticism of Chinese visual culture as having been dominated by the didactic, as found in the rules of traditional ink painting, the educational system and the experienced forms of propaganda? If this criticism is “true,” has this tendency manifested in a lack, or perhaps suppression, of creativity through an imposition on the individual to conform to society? Does the strong social tendency to identify as part of a collective necessarily constitute the sacrifice of creativity and furthermore, are creativity and individuality inseparable? In the West, has the ideal of individuality contributed to the process of globalization and the homogenization of art and culture, which is sometimes described as nothing less than a ‘cultural holocaust’? Who is the Chinese counterpart to the West’s Savior, the hero, the martyr, the prophet? Is there such a counterpart? Or, does such salvation depend on us, the people, like the lyrics of ‘The Internationale’ described?1
Distribute ‘We, the People?’ a review of the very popular play, Che, first performed in Beijing in 2000. Also distribute materials about another popular Chinese television mini-series, How the Steel was Forged. Discuss the recent phenomenon of the revival of Communist Revolution art works, ones that for the last twenty years were unpopular.
Site Specific Works
Local Guizhou artists will work with ‘amateur artists’ from the Maotai Winery to create collaborative works.