Monday, August 11, 2008

Politics, Propaganda, and Performance Art

Yes, the opening ceremony at the 2008 Summer Olympics was constrained by politics, packed with propaganda, and obscenely expensive. At the same time, it was one of the most stirring and beautiful pieces of art I have ever witnessed.

The director used an unlimited supply of people and technology to produce an elegant piece filled with color, texture, light, pattern, movement, and variety. It was a feast for the eyes and ears. There was a striking contrast between the sometimes quiet painterly performance and ceremonies at previous Olympics that have often been tasteless extravaganzas filled with glitz and noise. Even the fireworks appeared to be just colorful brush strokes on an enormous canvas. I was transfixed, barely able to wait for the next scene to unfold.

In addition to awe, the precision and magnitude of the display inspired an acute uneasiness. A society capable of producing such an amazing fete using thousands of faceless citizens could accomplish anything they desired for good or evil. What is the price of harmony in China?

The tension between my uneasiness and my appreciation of the creative genius that produced this unforgettable ceremony is a gift to contemplate. 

1 comment:

  1. Have just read a great, if somewhat unsettling, book on contemporary China, published this month: "Lost on Planet China" by J. Maartin Troost - he of the "Sex lives of cannibals" fame. Maartin ponders similiar questions to those you raise here whilst travelling through the amazing country.