Artist Guo Jian detained by Chinese authorities

Prominent Australian-Chinese artist Guo Jian has been detained by Chinese police in the lead up to the 25th anniversary of the Tienanmen Square crackdown, according to his friends.



Twenty-five years to this day, 4 June 2014, marks the clash between the young student protesters and the Chinese army, and the fateful bloodshed that followed.  The tension and debate that surrounds this period has only been heightened with the ambiguity surrounding Guo Jian’s release.

Artist consultant Melanie Wang reported to the Sydney Morning Herald, saying she managed to call him Saturday night when he was detained.  She claims he told her he’ll be released after 15 days, which is how long they can hold someone before being charged. The embassy is still trying to get a response from the authorities.

The arrest promptly followed after Guo Jian’s interview with the Financial Times, where he revealed his personal commemoration of the 1989 anniversary.  The controversial artwork ‘The Square,’ was a large diorama of Tiananmen Square covered with 160kg of minced pork.  A large work that is visually provocative, photographs of it attract the whole sensorium, with the smell of decaying meat leaving a bitter taste in the mouth that alludes to Guo Jian’s dark memory of the event.

Artist Profile recently interviewed Guo Jian in Issue 26, 2014, discussing his involvement in the 1989 protests.  Pressure for political reform initiated a wave of students, Guo Jian included, to protest and going on hunger strikes on Tiananmen Square.

His art practice is greatly influenced by the event of 1989, Guo Jian recalls “No one came [to Tiananmen] for just one thing,” he recalls.  Something in me changed – I knew we needed freedom and we didn’t have it.  And you realised lots of people shared the same feeling, even though we didn’t know where or how to get it…China before that, we had been locked up so long.”

Guo Jian provocative commentary continues today. Whilst he exhibits outside of China, his studio is in the thriving artist community of Songzhuang on the eastern outskirts of Beijing.  His conceptual practice explores the environmental degradation and cultural malaise that are the underbelly of his country’s success.   As well as his diorama, his practice includes paintings that were inspired by his time in China’s military that reveal the contradictions behind the country’s propaganda machine.

It is this advocacy for political reform and freedom of speech that is commendable.  Blacklisted for his active role in the protests, it comes to no surprise that internationally acclaimed Guo Jian’s latest work triggered a response from authorities over a still highly controversial event in Chinese history.

Image: Guo Jian, The Square, 2014, diorama, cardboard, minced pork
Image courtesy the artist

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