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    Complete archive, 1999-present


    Tiananmen Square in Tie Ying: State Power
    Courtesy of Marlborough Gallery
    Tiananmen Square

    Behind the curtain

    Tie Ying, a young artist from Beijing, photographs the veils of power and beauty in State Power.


    Where media and the state converge, Tie (pronounced Tee) Ying stakes out his smokin' turf. I say smokin' because first — I like the works — and plus there is the acrid sense of something burning in his oeuvre, as if you are on a battlefield. Or as if you are a warrior or an isolated voyeur in the colossal programming of modern empire.

    Exhibition: State Power.
    Works by: Tie Ying.
    December 3-30, 2005

    Gallery: Marlborough Chelsea
    211 West 19th Street
    New York NY
    Phone: (212) 463-8634

    To be sure, the residue of empire and its attendant contrivances and literal pillars is potent in these large prints. The images are exotic to us with the traditional mystique of the East but also with the taboo appeal — the appeal of radical chic and the regalia of a Communist state.

    Many of Tie's photos are taken from the state-sponsored TV. The Chinese version of Survivor seems to be criminals being paraded around auditoriums. This stagy trapping of state control is timeless, here invoking the Coliseum.

    The blockbuster trilogy of the show, State Power — Triptych is instantly compelling. On the right panel, a wide-eyed, slight young man is being led away by two taller soldiers in dressy uniforms. The paranoid in us all comes alive — as well as our compassion and morbid curiosity. And this is where the artist works his magic, inspiring conflicting emotions while erstwhile condemning such spectacle.

    State Power 04 in Tie Ying: State Power  
    Courtesy of Marlborough Gallery  
    State Power 04
    In the middle, a "panel" of beaurocrats in blue uniforms looks passively to the left. These seemingly ordinary folk are presumably the jury that has decided the criminal's fate. They appear to be seated on risers, calling into play the question of hierarchy in society.

    The left panel mirrors the right with a criminal being led away. In this scene, a woman bows her head as female officers escort her. The captors stare ahead like zombies at some indiscernible, but implied, witness. Thus, we all become complicit in viewing these works and therein lies part of their irony.

    State Power 07 is grimmer and grittier. In rough-grained black and white, a criminal is shown from behind with nooses around his neck. This image, seemingly too raw for television, was taken off the internet, but Tie told me that he felt no fear for showing such provocative work, such cogent indictments of a system's cruelty.

      Tie told me that he felt no fear for showing such provocative work, such cogent indictments of a system's cruelty.
    When Tie takes his simple camera outside, he catches vignettes that are striking both in narrative and in composition. In Tiananmen Square, we see a row of policemen. Echoing their shiny caps are the red flags flanking the imperial gates. Across the foreground, a bank of grass obscures the officers, leaving only their heads above the green swath.

    In National Day red and black kites climb across a concrete sky. To the left, in the distance, another chain of kites rises. Between them is a monumental column with a heraldic star etched onto it. The metaphors are rich: birds are painted on the kites; the kites are a perfect contrast to the "soaring" column; there is freedom and there is tradition.

    In Children Camp, Tie captures a group of Communist children in their uniforms with a guardian at a caf. Some of them are alerted to a visitor coming in the door. Their postures of reaction echo the social realism that for so long dominated the art of China. In this photo, with its Norman Rockwell nostalgia, the people seem to be looking at the future walking in the door.

    DECEMBER 16, 2005

    Reader comments on Tie Ying: State Power:

  • singing song   from yuli cao, Dec 25, 2005

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