pigment inkjet print
framed 123 x 183 cm
The Untitled (Children) series depicts groups of rural children from the ethnic minority Miao people. They were discovered by the artist quite by chance, posing in their Spring Festival finery for a local photographer at a ‘Tiao Hua Chang’, a Miao ritual event where children dance and sing. Many of the children were posed with toy guns in front of backdrops of fake blossoms, striking a chord with Guo Jian’s own troubled memories. During his childhood young Red Guards were sometimes armed with real guns, not plastic toys; and at seventeen, Guo Jian was training at a military base in Yunnan. The children in the photographs are wearing a mixture of cheap factory-produced jackets and fake brand-name running shoes with their silver jewellery and richly embroidered, beaded clothing. The armed boys in Untitled 1 wear plastic Monkey King masks, a festive reminder of traditional stories in a new world of global popular culture and American movie franchises. In Untitled 3 the small boy in the foreground aims his rifle out of the frame, sighting down the barrel, past the fake peonies framing the image. We are left to imagine his target, and what the future holds for poor rural children in a culture increasingly dominated by the desire and envy created by mass advertising.