COMERCHINA

The term “Comerchina” - coined from the expressions “made in china” and “commercial china” – is a play on words that aims to describe the excessive commercialization that has crept into all areas of Chinese life and exchange over the last decade.


The play on words is almost childish in its simplicity, and yet it is extremely apposite to the situation in today’s china. Who knows, it just might become as famous as Huang Rui’s ubiquitous “拆那 (chai-na)/china.” In 2002, the Beijing artist juxtaposed images of a city being demolished/reconstructed along with the characters “拆那 (demolition here)” and “china” to express his bitterness in the face of a city whose transformation – widely covered by the media – masked the social upheaval quietly occurring in the background. In china, all good ideas are recycled and, once given the barest of makeovers, re-launched on the market - and the “拆那/ china” slogan was no exception. It has become a favorite media quote, as well as a popular t-shirt logo proudly sported by the trendy young bohemians that hang out in Yunnan, Dali or Beijing Nan Luo Gu Xiang.


Seven years on, it is precisely this message that “Comerchina” conveys: the fact that it is impossible to escape from the “over-commercialization” that is invading China and all things “Chinese”; a system that has torn free from the usual restraints of commercial exchange to pervade our private thoughts and lives. In recent years, everything has centered on manufacturing output, the money it generates and the power this bestows. We are witnessing the resurgence of a country that, since the reforms of Deng Xiaoping, has become the most dynamic in the world in terms of economic growth. On the cultural side china has proven adept at fulfilling the requirements to take its place on the grand global stage. The creative energy of the new millennium that acted as a liberating force - and which initially amazed the west - has dissipated, a victim of its own success. This new era focalizes on global communication, business and celebrities. Besides, “Comerchina” does not so much focus on the obsession with commercialization but rather the fact that it jeopardizes our way of life, our way of perceiving, understanding and exchanging. In short, the intellectual side of our lives is suffering at the hands of communication.


“Comerchina” highlights some of the images that jostle together in our daily lives: money in the form of bank notes that we had almost forgotten exist in different colors (in this case, the 100 RMB note is red and bears a portrait of Mao Zedong); the stream of images fed to us by the media and advertisers; the touch pad of our mobile phones that monopolizes our attention every day. Endowed with critical minds, we should be able to separate and analyze these images, but it seems that once they have been reduced to trivia and stored unthinkingly in our huge memory bank we are less and less able to feel any reaction to them. By isolating them, scrutinizing them and singling them out, Huang Rui encourages us to reawaken our critical faculties.