Zeyu Bai

I visited the old residence of Confucius when I was in middle school. Confucius is respected as the teacher for all ages, the representative for Chinese traditional Confucianism culture. But the most impressive thing for me during my visit was neither his life achievement nor his ideological and cultural heritage, but those stone tablets with cracks. From these cracks, we can conclude that these stone tablets were cut into two pieces. These cracks, left by later repair, are so startling and shocking. I was so anxious to know the stories about these stone tablets that I asked my tour guide why they were damaged to be this way. And she told me: “They were all destroyed by red guards in the Cultural Revolution.” From that moment, the Cultural Revolution in my imagination gradually became clear and concrete. These broken stone tablets tell me what happened in the Cultural Revolution. These stories no longer simply existed in books and the Cultural Revolution was no longer at a distance, but truly exerting an influence on our current life. Confucius’s Old Residence is a place where fact and fiction meet.

These cracks, like scars, not only exist on the stone tablets but also reflect that crazy and shocking period in China. The most important thing is the damage done to people that is all hidden inside the stone tablets. The pain caused by the Cultural Revolution to a person’s soul is as permanent as the cracks on the stone tablets. They will never disappear. What I wanted to show through these stone tablets is the suffering of people. Stone tablets here are just a physical metaphor. As a result, even if there existed no person in phase 1, I still considered them as pictures of human pain.

So when I was shooting, I took them as humans to show my respect for things hidden in them. The work was based upon looking and shooting rather than historical research. I was looking for pictures and stories which resonated, rather than systematically recording historical sites and story. That ambiguity and wondering is what the work is about for me. My main intention for this project is to give viewers a space to critically appraise the great Cultural Revolution.




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