A Second History

Zhang Dali


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Chromogenic colour print
110 x 60 cm x 133
In 2005 Zhang Dali began to examine the role of photography as an instrument of state propaganda. History was re-written through censored, faked and doctored photographs. From the moment that Mao’s forces defeated the Nationalists in 1949, the work of photographers had been understood as a political task, instrumental in shaping a new nation. A Second History (2005) consists of one hundred and thirty chromogenic prints sourced from archives throughout China. Each print shows the censored photograph printed together with its unaltered negative. Backgrounds are changed; people removed (or sometimes added); black and white images become brightly coloured; extra pigs are added to pictures representing rural prosperity; portraits of Mao are pinned to the walls of poor farmhouses and enthusiastically clapping crowds are inserted into political rallies. A smiling Mao Zedong strides through landscapes alone, his companions purged from the photographic record. Reality was manipulated, inconvenient truths erased. Zhang Dali brought these fabrications into the light of day through a process of exhaustive research.
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