The latest exhibition at the always-fascinating White Rabbit Collection is Commune.
The exhibition looks at the “great family” of China: the collectives large and small that tie 1.3 billion people together.
China has always been a group-oriented society, in which individuals were expected to make sacrifices for the good of the group. In Confucian philosophy, the family is most important, and filial duty took precedence over personal desires. Under Communist rule, people’s identities were defined by the groups they belonged to and adherence and obedience were required.
From the website introduction: “In the late 1970s, as communes were dismantled and political controls relaxed, attitudes to the individual also began to change. Contemporary artists and writers drew inspiration from concepts like ziwo, the self, and ziyou, individual freedom. Today, a whole generation has grown up in relative liberty, with no memory of the collectivist past. Chinese citizens can make their own decisions, marry whom they like, find their own jobs, and take care of their families as they see fit. But individualism has drawbacks as well as benefits: the multiplication of choices also brings isolation and insecurity.
In Commune, 23 of China’s best-known artists and brightest newcomers explore the tensions between individual and group, community and nation, collectivist past and chaotic present. Will the liberation of a billion “little me”s diminish the “big me” that is China? The artists in Commune suggest the opposite”
The Remnants of Images (2013), by Hu Jieming, ordinary-looking archival cabinets containing softly animated historical and contemporary photographs:
The Static Eternity (2012), a perfect recreation of the simple rural home of Gao Rong’s late grandmother, made entirely from embroidered cloth
Ai Weiwei’s 500 kg of porcelain Sunflower Seeds (2010, above), created by an entire community and a striking metaphor for the relationship between the individual and the collective: