Ukranian artist Nikita Kadan may have succeeded in throwing a scare into the Chinese government with a series of plates which depict people suffering abuse at the hands of the police.
Above image: Detail of a plate from Nikita Kadan’s Procedure Room (2009 – 2010).
His Procedure Room series (2009 – 2010) was scheduled to show at this summer’s 3rd Annual Xinjiang Biennale, titled New Art on the Silk Road, according to an article by Art Leaks. However, a fussbudget from the Xinjiang government put the kibosh on that. An organizer explained to Kadan in an e-mail that his series could not be shown because the official found some “political issues” with the work.
The Biennale was supported by the central government of China and co-organized by the Ministry of Culture and Xinjiang province. Kadan wasn’t the only one to be censored in this way. Out of the 120 international artists who were invited to participate, 80 were rejected. While we’re certain that the “safer” artists at the Biennale had some fine work, we wish the rejected ones would exhibit together to showcase art which has to be more interesting politically. Think of it as curation by way of censorship. Perhaps they could put the government official on display as part of the show and he could make a big production out of being offended.
The plates are shocking, there’s no argument about that. In them we see plainly-illustrated people— more subjects than human, really— being burned with cigarettes, having their fingers slammed in a door, being suffocated or being sexually assaulted with a police baton. The report doesn’t explain specifically why Kadan’s work caused the pearl-clutching government official to ban it from the show, but Kadan’s explaination of the works give us some more context.
“This project is about police torture, a widespread practice in contemporary Ukraine… The project consists of a set of souvenir plates printed with drawings of police tortures and the text of the email dialogue between Yekaterina Mishchenko and Nikita Kadan. The project includes posters with the same drawings and correspondence fragments, which were put up in public space. The choice of forms and visual means is connected with the absence of any clear visual documentation of torture procedures, with their specific ‘invisibility’. The didactic character of these drawings addresses the collective responsibility of all those who know and remain silent, bearing the guilt for what goes on ‘in the shadows.’ These instructions have been executed in the style of the ‘Popular Medical Dictionary’ of the Soviet era, where one could often find illustrations of patient-characters with serene facial expressions, even though they are undergoing extremely painful procedures. ‘The doctor knows what he is doing. It’s all for our own good.'”
We at CFile answer to no tyrants (other than our Tyrant-in-Chief Garth Clark) so please take a moment to acquaint yourself with some of this politically-dangerous artwork. More images of the series follow below.
Congratulations to Mr. Kadan.
Bill Rodgers is a Contributing Editor at CFile.
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