I have recently (today, to be more precise) discovered the works of Chinese artist Shi Xinning; or rather the worlds made by him. It’s often said that artists create the worlds rather than the works, but in case of Shi Xinning it seems to be literally true. In the space of one painting he is able to create alternative universes, strikingly resembling our own on one side and at the same time comically and/or absurdly alien.
The article about him in Wikipedia says next to nothing, but a simple search via Google Images will immediately show the characteristic art method by Shi Xinning. The Yalta No 2 (see below) is one of the most famous work by him, and also the most exemplary.
Ok, one can say that this is not that far simple photoshop gag; we see plenty of those on the web these days; in a way, production of alternative realities goes non-stop and full steam (look at the case of the latest Obama vs Osama case). But here is exactly the time (and place) where we see the ‘magic of art’ at work. The alternative histories of Shi Xinning goes much further then insertions of alien gadgets or figurines; he is somehow able to modify the very fabric of life on his canvas.
If I follow the logic of my own recent presentation (on social media and McLuhan), the artist shows ‘different people’, people that are changed and transformed because they do live in this different reality. I think these ‘novel people’ are portrayed even better in his ‘alternative art-history’ works – just look at the faces of the Chinese party leaders contemplating the ‘fountain’ by Duchamp! Or the leader Mao who truly enjoy the wrapped Reichstag by Christo!
Many of his work also collide Mao (but is Mao now? or a new Mao altogether) with famous pop-symbols, The Beatles, Merlin Monroe etc. They are good, these collisions, but I still like more idea-loaded encounters more, like the one with Sartre, for example.
I am waiting for the one where Mao will listen to Zizek.