Cultural Revolution Posters

“There are layers of trajectories of meaning that are common throughout the visual imagination of a society or group and that operate on the key level of assumption.”1

I thought the idea of “hegemonic discourse” that the authors introduce was rather interesting. During the Cultural Revolution posters were everywhere and dealt with a variety of topics, yet somehow amidst all of that visual stimulus a certain common meaning developed for different colors, symbols, or designs. But, as the authors point out with their example of the Red Guards’ behavior, common understandings can still provoke different reactions. Each individual viewer brings her or his own unique perspective to every poster seen on the street or in a home. As the posters were generally made to have a quick impact, viewers may only have had a few seconds to form an overall impression of what the poster meant or was asking. That leaves a lot of room for individual interpretation. My question is, how much did the Cultural Revolution posters play off of colors, motifs, or images already common in Chinese society? How much of the meaning behind these things existed before the revolution and how much grew out of it?

  1. Harriet Evans & Stephanie Donald, Picturing Power in the Cultural Revolution (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 1999), 17

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