“Trying to figure out the meaning of the work is uninteresting. There is no reason why it exists. It all happens by coincidence.”

Born Lingchuan, Guangxi, 1975

The stills from Tang Maohong’s animation Orchid Finger (2005) are set in circular frames like traditional bird-and-flower paintings, but that is where the resemblance ends. The images resemble the hallucinations of a psilocybin mushroom eater, with blue women heavily pregnant, men riding snails in their underpants, faceless people waving blank flags, pandas raping rabbits—and, as if to confirm a drug connection, clumps of giant mushrooms and a mushroom cloud rising from a man’s groin. The work’s title alludes to one of the stylised finger patterns in Beijing Opera, in which the middle finger and thumb are drawn together and the other fingers raised; the gesture is used to convey femininity. The artist claims no special importance for his work or for any part of it. As in life, there is no plot and no climax. “Everything happens in a moment, and at the end nothing stays, nothing is permanent,” he says. Nor does he offer a theme or a meaning. The images are just “crazy thoughts”.

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