大美鸡 “Big Pretty Chicken” 2018, oil on wood panel & framed certificate, 48×60”
This is one of the series of painting that raises a question about vulgarity: Do people have the right to be vulgar? On April 10th, according to the WeChat public account of China’s State Administration of Radio, Film, and Television, the Administration inspected the “Jinri Toutiao”(Today’s Headline) website and found that the company’s subsidiary app: “Neihan Duanzi”(connotational jokes）have problems such as maladjustment and vulgarity. The government officials decided to shut down the “Neihan Duanzi” app and all the related web pages permanently for being “against the community values.” The Chinese authorities have repeatedly criticized the so-called “vulgar” entertainment products for violating “the socialist core values,” which strong resentment among internet users. Many other entertainment products are also being demanded by the authorities to delete content includes comics and short videos of pornography, violence, and homosexuality.
“Neihan Duanzi” meaning “connotational jokes,” it is equivalent to Vine in America. Before the ban,“Neihan Duanzi” has about 200 million users around the world. People post funny videos, jokes, and memes on the app. Some contents can be funny in an obscurely twisted and sexual way; however, there is no nudity or pornographic contents. The Chinese government official believes that these kinds of off-color humor deteriorate the social atmosphere and has to be eradicated. However, some contents are simply records of daily life such as old couple fighting, peasants pushing pigs into a pigsty, children from rural area carrying firewood home and so on. These movements may be crude, but they are the reality of current Chinese life. The app connects people from big cities and rural areas together and opens up different worlds for people. The television and media often show the glamorous city life in China, but the inclusiveness of “Neihan Duanzi” let the city people also see the lives of the poor in rural China.“Neihan Duanzi” users call themselves “Duanyou,” and they form communities, go on field trips and do charity works. The community of “Duanyou” has grown tighter and tighter. Sometimes they even put secret signals on cars to communicates with other “Duanyou” in the traffic. Rumors are saying: the Chinese officials suspect the “Duanyou” communities are slowly forming a small political party, they are afraid of people bounding too tightly on the internet.
According to online sources, a large number of “Duanyou” were dissatisfied with the ban, and protests were launched on April 10th in the morning. Hundreds of vehicles gathered in front of the building of China’s State Administration of Radio, Film, and Television in Xicheng District. They hunk to the administration all at the same time to protest the ban. There are also reports that many “Duanyou” hold glow sticks and banners in front of the Ministry of Culture to protest against the ban of “Neihan Duanzi.” In a country like China where protests are rarely practiced, the actions of “Duanyou” is very audacious and astonishing.
Though some of the humor in “Neihan Duanzi” is vulgar, is it wrong for people to enjoy vulgarity? Is it the government’s duty to determine what vulgarity is? Is it the government’s duty to ban vulgarity from the internet? Do people have the right to choose vulgarity? If we don’t have human rights in China, can we at least have some humor?
In this piece, I painted a chicken wearing pants based on a video from the app “Neihan Duanzi”. I named the chicken Big Pretty Chicken and made her an award certificate for wearing pants like civilized human beings. On the certificate, it says ” Student Big Pretty Chicken: Consciously covers her body, adheres to the correct value orientation, and creates a clean chicken nest environment. Specially rated as the noble chicken of the mainstream value of society.” By playing with irony: is a chicken a “vulgar” animal and is a chicken still “vulgar” when she is wearing pants, I question what vulgarity is and who gets to decide.