“Re-Collecting China” (7 minutes) is based on “An Archeology of Modern China: Artifacts of Revolution and Reform,” an exhibit at the London School of Economics and Political Science, April 2016. For information about this exhibit.
When I lived in China in 1985-86, I became obsessed with pencil sharpeners. They came in all shapes: televisions, telephones, and cars; tigers, elephants, and giraffes; pistols, Maotai bottles, and brandy bottles; violins, pianos, and Laughing Buddhas. In one year, I collected over 200 different pencil sharpeners.
The Chinese party-state seems to encourage such obsessions. Its political campaigns from the 1950s to the 1980s produced not only a plethora of slogans, but also a wide range of collectable communist consumer items: Mao badges, propaganda posters, postage stamps, and mugs inscribed with political messages.
To mark the 50th anniversary of the start of China’s Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution (1966-76), this short documentary film explores the everyday experience of revolution and reform by examining these cultural artifacts, and the people who collected them.