Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Face Time

I recently went on a field trip to the Krannert Art Museum with the Graphic Design History class. One of the exhibits is entitled Effacement: Huang Yan's China in the 21st Century. I took pictures of the exhibit typography because I thought it was really clever and meaningful that the "face" part of the title was emphasized. The exhibit itself explores modern "Chineseness" and this part of the exhibit in particular struck me as conveying the way Westerners (and perhaps others) see only the traditional/ancient/stereotyped images of Chinese people.

In these images, I see a parallel to how people in our country (and others) who were not original inhabitants of North America tend to lock American Indians into the ancient stereotypes we've seen in movie
s and history books.

From my understanding, "face" also is an important concept in Chinese culture in reference to maintaining the respect of others and saving face when something shameful is perceived or when a person engages in a shameful behavior. Given the communal aspects of Chinese culture, face becomes a very important aspect of social harmony. From the outside, though, imposing these inaccurate, anachronistic faces on people erases their self-determined identity.

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