My Private Museum

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© Courtesy of the artist & Shanghai Gallery of Art
My Private Museum

3rd Floor, No.3, the Bund
200002 Shanghai
September 4th, 2012 - November 25th, 2012
Opening: September 8th, 2012 5:00 PM - 8:00 PM



Feng Mengbo is one of mainland China’s more versatile, innovative and recognized new media artists.  Known for skillfully and playfully imbuing computer technologies with historically and culturally significant narratives, his works convey the deep contradictions that characterize contemporary China—its communist past and consumerist present, its long history and traditions and its dizzying transformation into a world power. 

In this most recent photographic series, “My Private Museum” he focused a camera lens on the displays and dioramas in the Shanghai Natural History Museum.  Opened in 1956, the museum is now run-down, and yet in this state it provides and unobstructed view into China’s past ideology, creativity and the organization of the museum’s workers.  The museum professionals, who at the time could not leave their country to reference what they were creating, worked in a spirit of camaraderie and collaboration to build elaborate tableaux using simple means and their imagination. Additionally, the evolutionary narrative common to most Natural History dioramas, in this museum has a particular ideological twist.  At the Shanghai Natural History Museum, the development of species is not only a biological occurrence—but is subtly linked to the Communist idea of the inevitable fruition of the socialist revolution.

Feng Mengbo’s photographs of the museum’s displays are haunting and multi layered.  Dioramas in themselves are contradictory, still lives made to represent teeming wildlife. They mirror back not reality, but our own imagination about it, and they isolate a moment in time—not unlike the act of photographing.  Thus in these works, our gaze is suspended, engaged not only in what it perceives, but in the awareness that we are seeing is a reflection of our own consciousness. This self-reflexive element, intrinsic in the project is further heightened by the different printing processes the artist uses for these images: black and white, color and lenticular.  As related images are printed using various techniques they adopt distinct qualities—the black and white prints are haunting and nostalgic, the color prints seem documentary and matter of fact, and the lenticular prints appear fantastical.  With each iteration of an image we experience another aspect of this Museum, but more than that, with each image we gain greater awareness of our own states of mind.