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Zhang Dali's Dialogue: Conversation with a City

Zhang Dali's Dialogue: Conversation with a City public controversy surfaced in Beijing’s newspapers in early 1998. At its center was an image that had become familiar to the city’s many urban residents: a spray-painted profile of a large bald head, sometimes two meters tall. The graffiti head seemed to have been duplicating itself, and its appearances gradually spread from the inner city to beyond the Third Ring Road. Alone or in groups, the head was found within the confines of small neighborhoods and along major avenues. Who was the man behind these images? What did he want to say or do? Should he be punished when identified? What kind of penalty should he receive? Was the image a sort of public art and therefore legitimate? What is public art anyway? To a city of 10 million that had not been exposed to the graffiti art of the West, these questions were new. None of them had straightforward answers. Neither did Zhang Dali who created these images. Shortly after the debate started, he came forward as the anonymous painter; by March 1998, he began to give interviews to reporters and art critics. It turned out that, far from a “punk” or “gang member” as some local http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Public Culture Duke University Press

Zhang Dali's Dialogue: Conversation with a City

Public Culture , Volume 12 (3) – Oct 1, 2000

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Publisher
Duke University Press
Copyright
Copyright 2000 by Duke University Press
ISSN
0899-2363
eISSN
1527-8018
DOI
10.1215/08992363-12-3-749
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

public controversy surfaced in Beijing’s newspapers in early 1998. At its center was an image that had become familiar to the city’s many urban residents: a spray-painted profile of a large bald head, sometimes two meters tall. The graffiti head seemed to have been duplicating itself, and its appearances gradually spread from the inner city to beyond the Third Ring Road. Alone or in groups, the head was found within the confines of small neighborhoods and along major avenues. Who was the man behind these images? What did he want to say or do? Should he be punished when identified? What kind of penalty should he receive? Was the image a sort of public art and therefore legitimate? What is public art anyway? To a city of 10 million that had not been exposed to the graffiti art of the West, these questions were new. None of them had straightforward answers. Neither did Zhang Dali who created these images. Shortly after the debate started, he came forward as the anonymous painter; by March 1998, he began to give interviews to reporters and art critics. It turned out that, far from a “punk” or “gang member” as some local

Journal

Public CultureDuke University Press

Published: Oct 1, 2000

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