“The circle is like a continuous flow, the cycle of life, death and rebirth.”

Born 1980, Anyang City, Henan. Lives and works in Beijing

Cheap and strong, easy to carry and store, plastic bags are “one of the smartest inventions of the last century”, in Han Wuzhou’s view.  But they need to be kept under tight control.  Few places in China are free of plastic bags floating on the breeze, or trampled in the dirt, oozing garbage. In Rings, Han Wuzhou reflects on the linked paradoxes of plastic and cultural change. He first collected thousands of plastic bags, insisting on used ones because “I wanted them to have the smell of real life.”  His method—plaiting the bags, and forming them into a flat coil with one end left loose—was also a kind of metaphor. In the Qing dynasty, Chinese men shaved the tops of their heads and wore their hair in a single, long pigtail. In a fight, letting your opponent grab your pigtail was a sure way to lose. Today, Han Wuzhou explains, “if you say, ‘I’ve pulled your pigtail,’ it means I have picked up your mistake, found out something negative about you. Through my plastic pigtail, in a way I am pulling society’s pigtail.”

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