“In this age of consumption, even people become consumable items.”
Born: 1972, Miaoming, Guangdong Province. Lives and works in Beijing
Chen Fei is fascinated by China’s consumer society. He was born at the tail end of the Cultural Revolution, when farm and factory output was flagging and most imports were banned. Today, goods of all kinds are abundant. But Chen Fei cannot bring himself to celebrate this bounty. A Buddhist, he uses his art to warn people against greed and the lust for more. His cartoonishly cute images show fat, babyish characters, often with no features but a mouth, stuffed to bursting with gold, jewels, cosmetics and lucky charms. Since the Opening-Up initiated by Deng Xiaoping in the late 1980s, China’s authoritarian rulers have given people only one kind of freedom, Chen Fei believes: to consume. The result has been “a mad chase after worldliness and fortune” that in his view is just another form of enslavement.