Red Illuminates explores the concept of culture in socialist countries and how loyalty to the state is cultivated. The catalyst for the project was found in a residential area of Beijing where Special Criminal Syndicate Combat propaganda posters displayed, on average, every 40 meters. These are presented alongside large-format portraits of so-called young pioneers emulating Mao Zedong’s portrait in Tiananmen Square. A white orchid blooming under artificial grow lights, a still from a video work, is listening to socialist propaganda from CCTV (China’s official news channel) continuously for 30 days. With this video, Long asks the question, “could this conditioning eventually turn a white orchid red?”. These symbolic references provide a framework to examine the power dynamics of state-generated loyalty in China.
For the purposes of implementing the instructions from General Secretary Xi Jinping, to ensure the safety and social stability and perpetual national peace, to further consolidate the foundation for ruling the country by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), the CCP Central Committee and the State Council decided to launch the Special Criminal Syndicate Combat across the country since January 2018. Following Xi Jinping’s Thought on the Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era as guidance, and to secure the great victory of the socialism with Chinese characteristics in the new era as the goal, to achieve Xi’s “Chinese Dream” of the great rejuvenation of Chinese nation, the CCP has strengthened socialist patriotic education in China. Educate the young generations to form socialist views on the world and ensure political security has become a primary concern. “We must consolidate and strengthen guidance to the ideological and political directions in the education system to ensure younger generations become socialist builders and heirs.” stressed Xi Jinping. The state news channel CCTV is to “promote the voice of the party and the government”. While listening to the guidance from the CCP, a perfect orchid blooming under artificial pinky light, a metaphor of the environment for children who grow up in China: facing the Great Firewall of the internet, listening to the unified voices from internal media, will the white orchid becoming red?
About the Artist
Jialin Long is a Chinese lens-based artist, photographer, based in Dublin, Ireland. Her practice focuses on issues in contemporary culture, and it uses new presentations strategies to explore social and political issues in an attempt to formulate alternative statements and positions. In 2020 she graduated with a first-class honors degree in photography from the Institute of Art, Design and Technology (IADT), winning multiple awards with her project Red Illuminates, which has been exhibited and published with photography institutions throughout Ireland, Europe, the UK, and Canada.
Long is an awardee of the Courthouse Gallery graduate award exhibition 2020, and was nominated as one of the FUTURES Irish Talents in 2021. She’s also named in The Irish Times’ 50 people to watch in 2021:The best young talent in Ireland. Her latest work is a project commissioned by The Creative Ireland/ Dublin City Council Arts Office around the theme of diversity, which challenges stereotyped views of the Chinese community in Dublin. Long is a recipient of the Visual Arts Bursary Award from the Arts Council.