“All these Western consumer products ‘modernize’ this originally agricultural country. But this trendy, fashionable lifestyle is ridiculous, contradictory and crazy.”

b. 1966, Daqing, Heilongjian. Lives and works in Beijing

Wang Qingsong works like a movie director, but his “movies” do not move. Instead, he uses photographs—staged with actors on film-studio sets, digitally edited, and printed at cinema-screen scale—to register his sardonic response to the changes that have turned China upside-down. Like many contemporary Chinese artists, he enlists the fruits of capitalism and consumer culture to proclaim his distaste for both. His works, which sell for tens of thousands of dollars, depend on advanced photographic and printing technology and highlight the absurdities of modern life, but most also contain references to classical Chinese art. Like traditional landscape painters, for example—and fellow photographer Miao Xiaochun—Wang Qingsong often overrides or plays with perspective, adjusting his images so that every detail is in perfect focus. Follow You (2013)—an ironic sequel to Follow Me (2003)—shows a classroom full of ambitious students who are clearly all studied out: they slump exhausted on desks crammed with books and Coca-Cola bottles. The only person who is not asleep is the artist, grey-haired and bearded like a Confucian sage, and sustained by an intravenous drip.

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