The Powerless Power
A distinct feature of Show of Formality—Fu Wenjun’s Conceptual Exhibition about the Photography on History is the strong “historical consciousness” that enwraps it. A century and a half has passed, from the marauding and burning of the OldSummerPalaceto the opening of the 2010 Expo. Tremendous changes closely related to the Sino-Western contacts have been taken place inChinawithin these 150 years.
The space of theWinterPalacehad held so many historical memories that the whole historical fate of the Chinese Empire in the nineteenth century seemed to have been placed within it. On the one hand, it had recorded the extravagance and the decadency of the imperial life; on the other hand, it had also recorded the abasement and the downfall of the empire through the big fire that had been burning for the successive three days-and-nights.
This was the symbol of decline, and was also the mark of being humiliated by the West. The ruins in the photographs were speaking of the aguish and the shame that had been experienced by this nation many years ago. Such anguish and shame were resulted both from the self-arrogance of the empire and the brutal ravage of the West. However, 150 years later, the architectures in theShanghaiExpoGardenare speaking of total different languages. Previously, the Westerners had burnt down a gigantic architecture of ours, theWinterPalace; now, they have come back to this nation again, and have been constructing their own architectures.
Previously, they meant to demolish here; now, they are here to promote and show themselves. Previously, they arbitrarily came here with armed forces; now, they have been invited here in the name of trade and peace. Previously, they were resented; now, they are welcomed.
In that former architecture, theWinterPalace, people had seen their own inability; while through the present architecture, theExpoGarden, they have been inspired. The historical changes that have been exhibited through the photographs of those two architectures seem to indicate the changes that China has been undergone: an empire in downfall has changed into a rising big power; an anti-foreign empire has become an open nation; a downtrodden country is now an independent sovereignty; a globally-marginalized and immobile country is becoming a centralized and ambitious nation. I am not sure whetherChinais now an ambitious nation or not; but at least, in the photographs of theWinterPalace, I saw a once feeble-breathing nation.