Born 1961, Xining, Qinghai; 1970, Dandong, Liaoning
Shao Yinong and his wife, Muchen, were young children during the 1966–1976 Cultural Revolution, but its impact has never left them—or the nation. “The Cultural Revolution changed the whole of China,” Muchen says. Communist leaders trumpeted the interests of the group—the nation, the masses—while maximising their own power. In Fairy Tales in Red Times (2003–2007) the artists symbolically turn that hierarchy on its head. When they were growing up, “there were always huge portraits of leaders like Mao, Lenin and Marx at the back of the classroom”. The artists’ photo portraits are enlarged to the same grand dimensions and hand painted in similarly vibrant colours, but the subjects they elevate to hero status are handicapped children. “They were deaf, blind or intellectually disabled,” Muchen says. “Yet despite their physical imperfections they had the most beautiful personalities.” By portraying them in the style of an era when “the people” ruled but most people were powerless, the couple celebrate the beauty of the individual, however humble or ignored.