“[My animations are] abstract works that reflect what is going on in reality, constructing a virtual world parallel to the real world.”

b. 1971, Yuanqu County, Shanxi

Wang Bo (aka Pisan, or “Skin Three”) gained a huge following with his first Flash movies, which he made for fun and posted online. His Blow Up the School (2005) has become a cult classic, and its protagonist, a naughty boy named Kuangkuangkuang (Speech Bubble), is an underground icon. As has happened with many of Pisan’s works, Chinese authorities tried to erase that video from the Web, but the fuss only enlarged his audience. Invited by Motorola and China Central Television to make TV commercials and cartoon shows, he formed a company, Hutoon, which has worked with several noted film directors and whose profits fund Pisan’s art projects. Coffee Time (2009) starts with a simple cup of coffee, from which it derives the whole world, one thing connected to another in an endlessly branching tree diagram. Daydream (2006) is a fictional documentary about ordinary Beijing folk that blends video of real street scenes with digital animation. (The black figure in the screen shot bears the Hutoon logo.) You Are Always Hanging Around Me (2010) follows the geopolitical adventures of a man who vigorously does whatever he fantasises about—most of it crass or violent—yet insists, “I really want to be a kind person.” Cracking Sunflower Seeds (2011) is a comment on the tussles between Chinese authorities and celebrity artist Ai Weiwei. Whether comical or kooky, Pisan’s art-toons retain the rebellious spirit of little Kuangkuangkuang. Like him, the artist is animated not by profit or politics but by a mix of keen perception and playfulness.

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