Sunday, 17. August 2008, 23:05. - 23:45, Ö1




„Harmonic Society“

an earwitness account from Beijing by Heimo Lattner



The artist Heimo Lattner is interested in searching for peculiarities of ways of thinking and common activities that sum up to our imaginary and real experience of a place. Based in Berlin, Lattner spent January to March 2008 in Beijing, on a scholarship by the Austrian Federal Ministry of Arts and Culture. His research focused on everyday life and on how it is coined by the sociopolitical reforms in the People’s Republic of China since the 1978 reform of the country.

Notes by Heimo Lattner:

"Hearing a voice makes us an earwitness. Being an earwitness can be understood as either an ethic or a political act. Songs constitute a collective memory and are a repository for societal scores.

In Ancient China music played an important role for harmony and longevity of the state. Usually the Emperors would take care of folk songs by emitting officers to collect songs and hence study the condition of the people.

After the foundation of the People’s Republic of China (declared in 1949 by Mao Zedong), revolutionary battle songs boomed; many were sung with new texts from the Soviet Union. Songs served as a means of propaganda and ideological tuition. Fort he first generation in the new People’s Republic songs carried values and ideals, they encouraged ideals and values as well as common spirit and the controlled emotions. Furthermore they suggested and at the same time satisfied the urge for a heroic, emotional atmosphere. Songs turned well behaved students into fearless revolutionaries.

During the peak period of the Cultural Revolutions, composition and presentations of music were subject to severe restrictions. A catchy Chinese music style was created from scratch. Traditional folk music was instrumentalised for revolutionary chants in order to promote Communism and attract a largely illiterate mass of people.

Singing was a more less spontaneous form of expression, or part of ritualized, everyday routine (e.g. „The East is Red“ at the beginning of conventions). In the intense experience of singing together, collective emotions are released and heightened to a state of ecstasy.

Singing has a great tradition in China and is still highly important to people, which becomes obvious in public places such as parks. What connects the past with presence here, is the current societal change China is experiencing and the desire to create a harmonious society. However, the conditions to realize this desire are even more difficult than before. The historical ideals are used up, their realizations have become history themselves. Emotions and desires are part of human nature, as well as the wish to understand what is going on. This can be witnessed in a tumbling, emotional and partly tremendously funny rhetoric in the public parks of Beijing."

(trans. and ed. by Anna Soucek)

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