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Bard College Presents Exhibition of Photographs Documenting Youth in Chinese Cultural Revolution

Exhibition Features Photography of Tang Desheng Curated by Patricia Karetzky, April 1–18

Mark Primoff
 Image Credit: Tang Desheng
ANNANDALE-ON-HUDSON, N.Y.—The Bard Art History Program, Asian Studies Program, Hannah Arendt Center, and Human Rights Program are sponsoring an exhibition, “Photographs of Educated Youth: Images of the Chinese Youth Sent to the Countryside during the Cultural Revolution 1966–1976,” curated by Patricia Karetzky, who holds the Oskar Munsterberg Chair of Asian Art. The show comprises 25 photographs of the Cultural Revolution in China from the perspective of the young people sent to the countryside. The photographer, Tang Desheng, who was a youth during that time, embedded himself in the movement and traveled throughout China for 10 years documenting the lives of displaced youth.

The exhibition is on display in Bertelsmann Campus Center from April 1 to 18. An opening reception with refreshments will be held on April 13 from 5–6 p.m. in front of Weis Cinema in the campus center. A panel discussion chaired by Patricia Karetzky will follow from 6–8 p.m. with Associate Professor of Comparative Literature and Director of the Human Rights Project Thomas Keenan, Associate Professor of Political Studies and Human Rights and Academic Director of the Hannah Arendt Center for Politics and Humanities Roger Berkowitz, Assistant Professor of Africana and Historical Studies Drew Thompson, Distinguished Visiting Professor of Human Rights and Photography Gilles Peress, and Associate Professor of History Robert Culp.

About Tang Desheng’s “Educated Youth”
During the Cultural Revolution (1966–76), Tang Desheng had an opportunity to photograph the students who were sent from the cities to the rural countryside. For this he was well prepared. His family owned a photo shop in the small city of Changzhou, Jiangsu for several generations. Tang had also been in the army taking photographs for the government. At the onset of the Cultural Revolution, Tang left his home to travel with young people from the city who were sent to the countryside. As a young professional photographer, he pursued his good instincts and found a chance to record history. Tang followed the educated youth traveling to Sichuan, Shanghai, Nanjing, Hainan, Shandong, Yunan, Heilongjiang, among other places. He recorded the events in their life from the momentous to the routine, and his photos recreate a visual history of those days.

The vast majority of the photos are black and white taken with a Rollei Reflex twin lens camera Tang’s older sister gave him. Tang’s work is invaluable because cameras were very expensive and people were not allowed to use them freely. In contrast to the staged images contracted by state agencies, some of these are spontaneous pictures. Part of the complexity of this project is its depiction of a positive aspect of the students’ lives, despite their extreme hardships in the countryside. A book published in conjunction with the exhibition is available with an essay by Patricia Karetzky that presents the body of Tang’s work from this period organized according to the themes of: work, science and technology, education, entertainment, and indoctrination.           

DOWNLOAD a high-resolution photo at
CAPTION INFO: “Photographs of Educated Youth: Images of the Chinese Youth Sent to the Countryside during the Cultural Revolution 1966–1976,” curated by Patricia Karetzky, Oskar Munsterberg Lecturer in Art History, is on view at Bard College’s Bertelsmann Campus Center from April 1 to 18.    

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This event was last updated on 04-07-2016