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« How to lose a culture war | Main | Charismatic Virtue »

January 12, 2012


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Hi Sam, thanks for this! These are astonishing pieces.

I like your reading of the robot as portraying Confucianism as (currently) a "site of struggle and confusion and unrest."

(An alternative reading might echo the ancient criticism of Confucius, that he hopped restlessly from state to state.)

But I'm not sure the "site of struggle" reading suggests that it's hopeless to try to follow Confucianism. Instead it might suggest that current efforts to use Confucianism fail because they fail to respect Confucius and his ideas. Instead they abuse him, they push him around.

How about that?

In contrast with the robot, the Confucius in water seems very serene (like the 仁 person), elemental, and human. The nudity suggests to me the claim that we are here getting the real Confucius, and I imagine it helps make the piece stick in the mind. Could the purpose be to support the message I proposed to read into the robot?

I wrote my comment about the robot after reading Manyul Im's similar comment at Warp, Weft, & Way, but without remembering that I got the idea from him.

I'm not sure I understand what is going on in Zhang Huan's exhibit, but doesn't calling it "Q" Confucius bring to mind Lu Xun's "Ah Q"? Doesn't the Iron Cage here bring to mind the Iron Cage in Lu Xun's Call To Arms?

Thanks for the comments!
Bill, sorry for not keep up with the commentary you and J&M have been writing of late. Great stuff. Unfortunately, some pressing family matters have distracted me...
As to your points here: yes, sure. Your readings are as plausible as mine. That's the thing about these sorts of contemporary installations: they seem designed to spark conversation more than dictate settled meanings.
CW, yes, the Lu Xun references are relevant.
Has anyone seen any comments from Zhang himself on his ideas here?

Hi folks!

Good points, CW! But I thought the preface to Call to Arms referred to an iron box, not a cage: something that woudl suffocate the people inside.

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