“As China gradually merges with the rest of the world, it will become more difficult to tell which works are by Chinese artists.”
Born 1976, Beijing
Dai Hua works as a website designer, but he also uses computers for creative fun. “My art is just Ctrl-C, Ctrl-V—copy and paste,” he says. Painstakingly cloning and recombining tiny pixels (picture elements), he builds fantastically crowded panoramas like I Love Beijing’s Tiananmen (2006), a cavalcade of Chinese history that zooms in on the chaotic collision between tradition and Western influence. The title refers to a Communist song all Chinese children learned at school, and to an early video game whose soundtrack endlessly repeated the song’s first two lines. The 6.3-metre scroll teems with figures, from Confucius to Mao, terrorists, Transformer toys, and the man with grocery bags who stopped the tanks in 1989. Along similar lines, Birth and Destruction (2008) is a witty take on capitalism and its follies, Map of China 1911–2010 (2010) records the century of tumult since the 1911 nationalist revolution, and Wowzah! (2008) is an idiosyncratic ode to rock and roll.
Dai Hua also creates animations: Monkeys and Peaches (2008) is based on a story he read online. Often quoted in business books to explain the process by which social conventions develop, it is based on an experiment in which monkeys that were punished for touching bananas taught other monkeys not to touch the fruit. The story made him think of the Chinese classic Journey to the West, in which the mischievous Monkey King becomes indestructible after gorging himself on the sacred Peaches of Immortality. Deciding that “peaches could better represent what people desire than bananas,” Dai Hua made them the forbidden fruit instead.