video (colour, sound)
5 min 32 sec
A wry, idiosyncratic humour is evident in Zhang Peili’s early conceptual works. By 1994, disturbed by the frenzied commercialism of the art market and the intensifying global commodification of Chinese art, Zhang abandoned painting altogether. He has consistently disavowed interest in making art that is overtly political, but his focus on the nexus between language and conceptual intent has been applied in more recent works to propaganda of various kinds, often by reconstructing found footage. Last Words (2003) is a five minute, thirty second video of appropriated short clips from patriotic films of the 1950s and 1960s – the last speeches of revolutionary martyrs whose melodramatic deaths are repeated on a loop, to the point of tedium. Repetition of these dramatic moments empties them of their original meaning. Interrogating the patriotic discourses that formed the imagery and soundtrack of his childhood during the Cultural Revolution, Zhang creates an absurd narrative that, in part, looks back with nostalgia to the stirring films of his youth, yet simultaneously renders them as banal and meaningless, an exercise in the aesthetics of boredom and a deconstruction of the authority of language and power.