Impersonating Mao

Daoust MaoThis exhibition opened at the Art Gallery of Regina on Wednesday so I haven’t seen it yet, but the premise certainly sounds intriguing. It’s by Montreal photographer Nathalie Daoust, and takes the form of a photo essay inspired by an encounter she had in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square with a man named Zhang who’d made it his life’s mission to pay tribute to the leader of the revolution that led to the founding of the People’s Republic of China Mao Zedong.

Born in 1893, Mao governed China from the time of the Republic’s formation in 1949 until his death in 1976. While he was alive, a massive cult of personality surrounded him. And over 40 years after his death, Daoust was intrigued to see remnants of that influence in Zhang’s desire to impersonate Mao.

In her exhibition, Daoust had Zhang replicate iconic images of Mao. As you can see from the above photo, though, she employed techniques like over-exposure to lessen the documentary authority of the image. By doing so, she calls into question the truthfulness of photography as a medium and subverts the fiction of official history always being an unbiased and accurate recounting of events as they unfolded.

Impersonating Mao is on display at the Art Gallery of Regina until Jan.24.

Author: Gregory Beatty

Greg Beatty is a crime-fighting shapeshifter who hatched from a mutagenic egg many decades ago. He likes sunny days, puppies and antique shoes. His favourite colour is not visible to your puny human eyes. He refuses to write a bio for this website and if that means Whitworth writes one for him, so be it.