Meador, Clifton: One Hundred Excellent Flowers
On February 27, 1957, Mao Zedong gave a speech titled ‘On the Correct Handling of Contradictions
Among the People.’ In this speech, he quoted a poem: ‘Let a hundred flowers bloom / Let a
hundred schools of thought contend.’
His speech invited citizens to voice their opinions and criticisms of the Communist Party.
It was followed in the summer of 1957 with the Anti-Rightist movement, where between
300,000 and 550,000 individuals were identified as Rightists— most of whom were intellectuals,
academics, writers and artists. Mao later said the Hundred Flowers movement had enticed the
snakes out of their lairs. The majority of those accused of being Rightists were publicly discredited
and lost their jobs or worse.
Historians argue whether Mao was sincere in his desire to encourage free expression and
came to regret it, or if the entire Hundred Flowers movement was a trick to expose his enemies.
During the fall of 2018 — like many other people —I became angry at the sense that lying has
become an acceptable rhetorical strategy. My anger spread to contemplation of the myriad ways
we are being lied to, from politics to marketing. It was late summer in western North Carolina,
and I had been photographing flowers since spring. I had been thinking, as I have for a long
time, about how photographic representation presents nothing other than itself — a printed
image is just ink on paper, not a magic window into an alternative reality. The way an image
gets printed — the technical issues in printing — are a large part of the reception of the image.
I determined to make the technical necessities of image production into an issue in this piece -
interfering with the way a raster creates tone by making it obvious and expressive.
Flowers are a trick to seduce pollinators into helping the plants reproduce. I saw the snack
foods as seductions, lies of a different kind, and I took parts of Mao’s speech and reiterated it for
a consumer’s lament.
en., fluoreszent fpor-color offset lithography, post bound, 62p, 8.5 x 11 inch, Ed. of 200, 2019
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