“We place great emphasis on both individuality and cooperation. This gives us great flexibility and allows all of us to exert our talents.”

Liu Zhan, born Luoyang City, Henan, 1976
Kuang Jun, born Pingxiang City, Jiangxi, 1978
Tan Tianwei, born Changde, Hunan, 1976

Unmask started out with a mask on: the group’s three members wanted to stay anonymous. But in China’s name-driven art scene, that was bound to be difficult. Liu Zhan, Kuang Jun and Tan Tianwei were more successful with another aim, to present their works as commodities, marked by “industrialisation, mass production, trendiness”. Inspired by the American-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, the dioramas of Shadowless (2003-04) depict war as child’s play, with toy soldiers, jeeps and planes obscured by bursts of plastic flame. Three of the UFO-like pods contain a transparent figure of one of the artists as a god (Lull, Tin and Kohl—respectively the gods of fire, explosions and blood—appear in other works as well). In the fourth pod, the trio lounge about, dressed in mod fashions from the 1980s. The figures are all hand formed from resin, of a piece with the Plexiglas capsules, which are intended to be “isolated from, if not opposed to, the outside world, forming a separate virtual environment”. For those not involved in it, Unmask seem to say, war is just another spectacle, a colourful game.

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