Long March - Restart

Feng Mengbo


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video installation
8-channel interactive video installation, dimensions variable
The subculture of video games inspired an early suite of paintings referencing Nintendo’s Super Mario video game. Feng’s version depicted the adventures of a Red Army hero who throws Coca-Cola cans at his enemies. In 2008 Feng created a new version of this work as an interactive game. Long March: Restart features the same main character, the heroic Yang Zirong (sometimes also referred to as the ‘Little Red Soldier’), but now audience members control the soldier’s movements across a digital ‘side-scroll’ on the gallery wall, chasing their avatar, who can finally triumph in front of Tiananmen’s Gate of Heavenly Peace. Iconic ‘80s games such as Mario Bros and Street Fighter II thus become ready-mades, re-invented to suit the artist’s purposes.
The title of the work refers to the arduous retreat of Mao Zedong’s Red Army across China in 1934. The Red Army travelled more than eight thousand miles in just over a year, pursued by Chiang Kai-Shek’s Nationalists, crossing mountains and deserts. The journey has taken on mythic qualities and is a powerful continuing force in Chinese propaganda, used satirically in this work to suggest that the heroics of revolutionary martyrs can be equated to the antics of pixelated video game characters. Long March: Restart critiques the fear of the ‘other’ which, combined with recent advances in military technology, makes future war seem both more likely and more terrible. It’s a prescient theme in an era of drone strikes and AI weapons of mass destruction.
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