Chinese Humour Through Nostalgia: The Online Kuang Kuang Animations
Ross, KA, Chinese Humour Through Nostalgia: The Online Kuang Kuang Animations, Australian Centre on China in the World, The Australian National University, 18-19 October 2012, Canberra (2012) [Conference Extract]
In 2011, Beijing-based animation artist Pi San 皮三 (aka Wang Bo王波) achieved widespread notoriety with his Chinese New Year nightmarish cartoon ‘Obedient Rabbits’ (2011). Framed as a young boy’s dream, this is a graphic depiction of recent incidents of violence by China’s ruling elite (‘tigers’) against the people – or, in this case, the ‘rabbits’. Finally, after being pushed too far, the rabbits fight back. Predictably, the cartoon was quickly censored in China. At the same time, a wave of repression swept across the Chinese internet in response to government fear of fallout from the Arab Spring and calls for a Chinese Jasmine Revolution.
Despite efforts to censor his work, Pi San has won awards and worked with noted film directors such as Jia Zhangke. After ‘Obedient Rabbits’, his work is now collected in overseas art galleries. ‘Obedient Rabbits’ was one in a series of animations based on the life of a young school boy, Kuang Kuang (Bang Bang). From ‘Blowing up the school’ (2009) to ‘Gu Der Bai’ (2011) Pi San’s cartoons have included graphic violence between children, teachers, the state, and society in general. The Kuang Kuang cartoons are social satire focused on one of the primary objects of nostalgia in contemporary China: childhood. For Pi San, the return to childhood is inherently violent, with the cartoons not only revealing the violence which underpins contemporary Chinese society but, at the same time, both rebutting and fostering the soft-lens approach to childhood taken by many of China’s youth today. Despite this, the dark humour of Pisan’s work comes from the easily recognisable scenes and contradictions of everyday Beijing life.