Lourdes Castro and Manuel Zimbro’s Un autre livre rouge

Ana Bigotte Vieira and André Silveira examine Un autre livre rouge, an artist book made by the Portuguese artists Lourdes Castro and Manuel Zimbro while they were living in Paris. The two-volume book alluded to Mao’s Little Red Book and was entirely devoted to the contradictory meanings and psychological associations that red conveyed. The work was crafted mostly between 1973 and 1975 at a time of radical political change in Portugal. The Carnation Revolution and the PREC (Período Revolucionário Em Curso, Ongoing Revolutionary Period) informed Un autre livre rouge, which was, however, both less and more than a political book.

in Art, Global Maoism and the Chinese Cultural Revolution

Many people in the West can recognise an image of Mao Zedong (1894–1976) and know that he was an important Chinese leader, but few appreciate the breadth and depth of his political and cultural significance. Fewer still know what the Chinese Cultural Revolution (1966–76) was, or understand the extent of its influence on art in the West or in China today. This anthology, which is the first of its kind, contends that Maoism and the Chinese Cultural Revolution were dominant cultural and political forces in the second half of the twentieth century – and that they continue to exert influence, globally, right up to the present. In particular, the book claims that the Chinese Cultural Revolution deserves a more prominent place in twentieth-century art history. Exploring the dimensions of Mao’s cultural influence through case studies, and delineating the core of his aesthetic programme, in both the East and the West, constitute the heart of this project. While being rooted in the tradition of social art history and history, the essays, which have been written by an international community of scholars, foreground a distinctively multidisciplinary approach. Collectively they account for local, regional and national differences in the reception, adoption and dissemination of – or resistance to – Maoist aesthetics.

Polly Savage’s chapter examines Maoism in Mozambique. Drawing on interviews and archival records, the study focuses on the Front for the Liberation of Mozambique (or FRELIMO). Between 1970 and 1977 FRELIMO negotiated an artistic and cultural agenda combining, not without difficulties, leftist internationalism and local traditions. The analysis of works produced by the graphic designer ‘Mphumo’ João Craveirinha Jr offers insightful perspectives on how these tensions materialised in images.

in Art, Global Maoism and the Chinese Cultural Revolution

Colette Gaiter’s chapter looks at the work of the American artist Emory Douglas, the Minister of Culture for the Black Panther party, which at the time was subscribing to a political tendency known as ‘intercommunalism’. More expansive than other strands of leftist thought, intercommunalism sought to unite countries of the world in resistance to global capitalism and imperialism. A wave of ‘Black Maoism’ swept through black liberation movements at this time and came to visual life in Emory Douglas’s work on the Black Panther newspaper.

in Art, Global Maoism and the Chinese Cultural Revolution

Simon Soon’s chapter discusses the development of leftist art discourses in Singapore and Indonesia by examining a selection of manifestos and texts alongside artworks. Close readings unearth oblique references to Talks at the Yan’an Forum on Literature and Art, which enabled artists to open new ways beyond the autonomy of art in the shadow of the 1955 Bandung conference.

in Art, Global Maoism and the Chinese Cultural Revolution
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Mao and visuality in twentieth-century India

Maoism in India is still very much alive, and in several areas Maoist guerrilla fighters continue to combat the Indian state. Sanjukta Sunderason’s chapter maps the traces of Mao and Maoism in India’s long twentieth century. Drawing from the visual culture theorist Nicholas Mirzoeff’s notion of visuality, Sunderason explores three key moments of Indian Maoism in relation to art: the iconography of resistance developed by the Communist Party of India in the 1940s, the Naxalites’ ‘statue-smashing’ in Calcutta in the early 1970s and the afterlives of Maoism in Indian art from the mid-1970s to the present.

in Art, Global Maoism and the Chinese Cultural Revolution
Drawings by Peruvian Shining Path war survivors

Anouk Guiné’s study is set against the background of the civil war between the Communist Party of Peru (PCP), also known as Shining Path (Sendero Luminoso), and the Peruvian state, a conflict that began in 1980 and lasted well into the 1990s. Relying also on interviews with detainees, Guiné engages with the depiction of the massacre that was produced by Maoist convicts. She discusses issues of memory, resistance, resilience and popular imagery.

in Art, Global Maoism and the Chinese Cultural Revolution
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The art of contradiction

Art and images were and continue to be central channels for the transnational circulation and reception of Maoism. While there are several books about the significance of Mao Zedong and the Chinese Cultural Revolution, this collection of seventeen essays constitutes the first effort to demonstrate the global influence of Maoism on art and images, from 1945 to the present. The Introduction explores the protean quality of this political phenomenon, especially when it crossed paths with, and was expressed through, the visual arts. After providing an overview of the contents and organisation of the chapters, which challenge the traditional geographies of art history, the Introduction states that collectively, the studies reveal that the cultural contradictions that are always present in art and art history research remain a powerful source of political social, and aesthetic transformation.

in Art, Global Maoism and the Chinese Cultural Revolution
Maoism, art and dissidence in Spain

Noemi de Haro-García’s chapter describes the short-lived group of militant artists La Familia Lavapiés in order to explore the implications of being an artist within a Maoist organisation during the last years of the Francoist dictatorship and the early years of the monarchy. The collective collaborated, but also argued, with political leaders, mass organisations, political parties (especially the Communist Party), workers, students, neighbours and, of course, other artists. Sympathetic to akolasía (ἀκράτεια, the absence of coercion) and Trotskyism, the members of La Familia Lavapiés saw art and Maoism as tools with which they unsuccessfully tried to challenge and transform the cultural and political milieu in which they carried out their activities.

in Art, Global Maoism and the Chinese Cultural Revolution
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Chinese representation at the Venice Biennale (1993–2003)

Estelle Bories’s chapter investigates the re-emergence of Chinese contemporary art in the West, concentrating on the way in which artists and curators addressed the revolutionary past of China. It considers Cai Guoqiang’s famous restaging of Rent Collection Courtyard, presented during the forty-eighth Biennale of Venice in 1999. The appearance of Chinese art at the Biennale occurred with much fanfare. While, on the one hand, this could be read as a point of departure and a new expression of Chinese modernity, on the other hand it could also be read as a repackaging of some standard Maoist positions on art.

in Art, Global Maoism and the Chinese Cultural Revolution