Feng Mengbo 冯梦波

 

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Feng Mengbo is a Chinese video game artist. His work combines his experiences as a child of the Cultural Revolution with contemporary Western technology and the visual language of video games.[1] Born in 1966, Feng lives and works in Beijing.

Contents

Date & Place of Birth

Feng was born in Beijing in 1966.

Education & Development

Feng gratuated from the Design Department at the Beijing School of Arts & Crafts in 1985. He went on to receive a master's degree from the Printmaking Department at the Central Academy of Fine Arts, also in Beijing, in 1991.

Art

Early 1990s

Feng has undergone an aesthetic transformation, from familial sentiment to cyber-warrior swagger. According to many Chinese scholars, Feng Mengbo arose out of the Political Pop movement in China, during the late 80's and early 90's, when many artists were using deconstructive techniques and Western iconography to comment on contemporary China.[2]

Feng Mengbo, Taxi! Taxi!, 1994.
Feng Mengbo, Taxi! Taxi!, 1994.

In these early days, Feng was already fascinated by technology, painting oil pictures based on electronic screen images, such as his pixelized double image of Mao Zedong hailing a cab in the Taxi! Taxi! series of 1994.[3] In this series, Feng likened Mao's waving to his army of Red Guards gathered at Tiananmen Square during the Cultural Revolution to the way people wave to hail a taxi, copying Mao's image and placing an ordinary yellow taxicab before it. With this addition, Feng set out to quietly introduce a human scale to a mythical historical figure.[1]

Feng Mengbo, Game Over: Long March, digital image from computer game, 1994.
Feng Mengbo, Game Over: Long March, digital image from computer game, 1994.

In a 1994 work titled Game Over: Long March, he transformed stills from a video game into a series of 42 paintings examining China's revolutionary past. The images feature a Chinese revolutionary street fighter dressed in a blue soldier's uniform with a red armband. His weapons include the conventional artillery of grenades and bullets as well as crushed Coca-Cola cans. A young Mao and heroes of the revolutionary operas created during the Cultural Revolution are interspersed with characters from the international video world including ninjas and dinosaurs.[1]

Mid 1990s-Present

Feng Mengbo, My Private Album, interactive video installation, 1996.
Feng Mengbo, My Private Album, interactive video installation, 1996.

Following this transition, Feng’s artistic identity was established internationally with the modest and heartfelt My Prviate Album, in which Feng uploaded photographs from family albums onto the artist's first interactive CD-ROM.

Feng Mengbo, Taking Mt. Doom by Strategy, 1997
Feng Mengbo, Taking Mt. Doom by Strategy, 1997
Taking Mt. Doom by Strategy (1997), created by hacking and reprogramming, melds the interactive video game Doom with clips from a film version of one of the Cultural Revolution’s model operas, Taking Tiger Mountain by Strategy, in which a People’s Liberation Army contingent pursues and ultimately destroys a band of Kuomintang fighters.
Feng Mengbo, Q4U, still from video game, 2002.
Feng Mengbo, Q4U, still from video game, 2002.

Q4U (2002) ups the ante with multiple self-portrait avatars—video camera in one hand and blazing rifle in the other—whom human players must blast away at in a variation of the super-violent, popular 1999 video game Quake III Arena. Such works are sometimes installed with multiple screens linked to trigger devices that force participants to respond with their entire bodies in a kind of high-tech dance of death. Feng also plays obsessively online, engaging a worldwide community of gamers.[3]

Emergence & Reception

Feng Mengbo's emergence on the Chinese gaming scene may have been slightly premature. Due to their isolationism before the 1980s, Chinese citizens experienced delays in receiving access to common technological advancements for many years following Deng Xiaoping's opening of the country in 1979. In a 2009 press release for Feng's summer exhibition at Ullens Center for Contemporary Art, New York's e-flux news network explains that Feng was constrained by these shortfalls in the 1990s, unable to achieve his full potential until granted access to the tools he needed for creating and exhibiting his signature customized video games.[4]

Auctions & Acquisitions

Though Feng's videos are well-suited to large exhibition halls where hundreds of visitors can come through to interact with them, they are less appropriate at auction, where a buyer is more often than not in search of something iconic (and low maintenance) to hang on his wall. Feng's dealers meet the high demand for his work by offering stills on acrylic and veejet covered canvases (achieved through a computerized pixel printing process), which reproduce the proportions of a video screen. These works, which have sold at Sotheby's New York and Hong Kong fetch an average of USD 20,000-50,000. Pieces from two of Feng's series' (My Private Album and Q3) were featured and sold in the momentous Estella Collection Sale by Sotheby's Hong Kong in April, 2008.

For Feng Mengbo's auction record, click here.

Gallery Affiliations

Feng Mengbo is represented by ShanghART Gallery in Shanghai.

Exhibitions

Feng has had recent solo exhibitions at Ullens Center for Contemporary Art in 2009 and, before that, at HanArt TZ Gallery in 2007. He has participated in notable group exhibitions, including Mahjong (a travelling show of Uli Sigg's collection, which ran from 2005-2009) and Between Past and Future: New Photography and Video from China, (another travelling show, which travelled from 2004-2006 and was featured in the 2005 Venice Biennale).

For Feng Mengbo's complete exhibition record, click here.

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 http://www.marquette.edu/haggerty/exhibitions/past/fengmengbo/feng2.html
  2. http://www.iniva.org/dare/themes/play/feng.html
  3. 3.0 3.1 Richard Vine, New China New Art, New York: Prestel, 2008.
  4. http://www.e-flux.com/shows/view/7021
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