Wang Qingsong, Night Revels of Lao Li, 2000
Wang Qingsong on the ideas behind his monumental scroll photograph:
My mind has been haunted by the position and destiny of the Chinese people over our long history. Today, in a time that lacks ideals, people cast doubts on the heroes and ideals of past eras. I wanted to create scenes in which old hopes are replaced with contemporary desires for money and power. To compare the past and present, I have reimagined old and new masterpieces in ways that reflect current social realities.
Night Revels of Han Xizai is one of the best traditional Chinese figure paintings. It reflected social life amidst torrents of transformation, and depicted the life of Han Xizai, a worried intellectual and high official in the late Tang Dynasty. He was powerless to fulfill his ideals of reconstructing the country and chose escapism and indulgence. After several centuries, even though the Chinese dynasties have changed frequently, the status of intellectuals in society has remained the same, and I created Night Revels of Lao Li as a portrait of the current position of intellectuals in society.
Wang Qingsong, “Artist Statement,” in Between Past and Future: New Photography and Video from China, Wu Hung and Christopher Phillips (Chicago: Smart Museum of Art, University of Chicago and New York: International Center of Photography, 2004), p. 213.