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Opening the Door of Memory with a Camera Lens

The Folk Memory Project and Documentary Production
Wu Wenguang
Translated by Stacy Mosher
p. 37-44


For a revolution over “culture,” remarkably little has been said about the Cultural Revolution culture itself, and even less about the apolitical, private art produced underground. This article explores this apolitical, private art, arguing that it was a “rebellion of the heart” against the state’s ruthless destruction of the private sphere. Mao’s Party-state drastically fragmented families, moulding socialist subjects through “revolution deep down into the soul.” Paintings of (broken) homes and interiors, flowers, and moonlight articulate lived experiences of the revolution while silently reinventing a private refuge for the body and soul to subsist beyond state control. Defying orthodox revolutionary mass culture, this apolitical art articulated private experience and created a private inner world for a new form of modern subjectivity, while generating community and human solidarity against relentless class struggle and alienation.

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Bibliographical reference

Wu Wenguang, « Opening the Door of Memory with a Camera Lens », China Perspectives, 2014/4 | 2014, 37-44.

Electronic reference

Wu Wenguang, « Opening the Door of Memory with a Camera Lens », China Perspectives [Online], 2014/4 | 2014, Online since 01 January 2017, connection on 13 December 2017. URL :

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About the author

Wu Wenguang

Wu Wenguang is a documentary filmmaker. In 2005, he founded an art centre, Caochangdi Workstation (草场地工作站), with the choreographer Wen Hui.The website of the Folk Memory Project is accessible here:

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