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Museum of Art presents the private life of an old Red Army Man


It says that contemporary art is a social product and a reflection of the concerns of our world; it invites the audience to give a deep thought and respond to things that people generally take for granted in their daily lives.

Now running at the Hong Kong Museum of Art (Museum of Art), "The Private Life of an Old Red Army Man" is such kind of contemporary art exhibition which attempts to provide the audience with an opportunity to re-comprehend and re-interpret the Red Army of China.

Jointly organised by the Museum of Art and the Shenzhen Sculpture House, the exhibition does not show the artistic production of any one artist or artifacts created in ancient civilizations, but the old photographs, manuscripts and personal belongings of a career army man, Lu Shisheng, who had experienced the twenty-five thousand miles Long March. The independent curator of this exhibition Sun Zhenhua, President of Shenzhen Sculpture House, borrows from the German artist, Joseph Beuys (1921-1986), the concept of "social sculpture" - all social behavior and the structure of social institutions are declared art - in curating this exhibition, through which Sun intends to observe the society and re-interpret the revolution of the 20th century China.

Sun Zhenhua says:“As a group of idealists, these old Red Army men remorselessly exerted their utmost effort throughout their entire lives in order to move closer to a magnificent, idealistic utopia. When those earth-shaking months and years got further and further from us, we discover that these red warriors, like the artists, participated in the restructuring of society with their experience and behavior. They created their own work - their lives are lives of sculptors. They have sculpted social institution and social model. Their blood-bathed lives of several decades have created China's most spectacular behavioral art."

For this exhibition, Sun has chosen a new angle of narratives and a new style. He chose to present the "private life" rather than the "official", grand narratives of the Red Army man. He believes that apart from their toughness and passion of love, and, revolutionary goal and human nature, these idealists should also have their very ordinary narratives and private life. At home, as a father and husband, the Red Army man's life was no different from that of ordinary people in looking after domestic matters. The exhibition tries to reveal the social and family conditions at the time and the personality and humanity of the old Red Army man's generation, and invites audience to explore the old man's story, and sense his struggle, emotions and experiences.

"Perhaps old Red Army man Lu Shisheng was not accustomed to express his feeling for home in a sentimental way. However, in his privately hidden treasures, he had saved a large quantity of photographs he had taken with his children. From each period a large quantity of photographs with his children were saved even though as a father, he had almost never revealed a smile on his face in these photographs. Between ideology and family, and, between the iron-and-blood army life and his paternal feelings for his children, the inner world in the heart of such a solemn professional army man is always revealed through some extremely trivial details in everyday life: each of the children's birthday was meticulously recorded in his diary, a set of wine cups brought back by the son was kept until his death......The content of everyday life provides a passage for the ordinary public to enter into a world shrouded by a halo in the past. They make available an opportunity to gaze at the Red Army as equals for those who in the past had marveled the Red Army," says Sun.

The Chief Curator of the Museum of Art, Dr Christina Chu Kam-leun, noted that the exhibition evoked history but not as a historical narration.

"The narration is not intended as a salutation to the institution or as a tribute to an individual. The assemblage of the man, the objects and all the associated symbolism come together to confront a myth, a myth that would dissipate if personalities and events are re-attributed to their rightful niches in history, in humanity and in life, to be scrutinized, to be felt and to be re-appropriated. Re-appropriation engenders new possibilities. New possibilities are the essence of contemporary artistic inquisitions," says Dr Chu.

In conjunction with the exhibition, which will run from February 21 to May 25, a video program of an interview with Sun Zhenhua is featured to give visitors a better understanding of the content and rationale behind the exhibition.

The Museum of Art is located at 10 Salisbury Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon. It opens from 10am to 6pm daily and closes on Thursdays (except public holidays). Admission fee is $10 and half-price concession is applicable to full-time students, senior citizens and people with disabilities. Admission is free on Wednesdays.

For enquiries, please call 2721 0116 or visit the Museum of Art's website at

End/Thursday, February 20, 2003

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