A Chinese artist’s 8-year old video piece has caused uproar on the internet. Song Ta’s seven-hour video piece, called Uglier and Uglier, ranks women on a Chinese campus from prettiest to ugliest, providing photos with a number ranking below.
The video was part of an exhibition put on by OCAT Shanghai, which has been closed for review after Song Ta’s misogynistic video piece began to go viral online.
The video work was made by Song Ta in 2013, as he and his assistants reportedly took secret photos of 5,000 women to be ranked as part of the project. In an interview from 2019, Song Ta said it was rare to find “so many ugly women at only one school.” One of the most inexplicable parts of the video work being included in the exhibition is that it was previously called out for being sexist in that prior interview.
A disturbing dose of Chinese contemporary art: Song Ta, a video artist, has a piece called "Uglier and Uglier" is in exhibition in OCAT Shanghai. This 7+ hrs long video displays secretly shot footage of college girls ranked from the "prettiest" to the "ugliest." pic.twitter.com/COtSWEF7Xa— Afra Wang (@afrazhaowang) June 17, 2021
A disturbing dose of Chinese contemporary art: Song Ta, a video artist, has a piece called "Uglier and Uglier" is in exhibition in OCAT Shanghai. This 7+ hrs long video displays secretly shot footage of college girls ranked from the "prettiest" to the "ugliest." pic.twitter.com/COtSWEF7Xa
— Afra Wang (@afrazhaowang) June 17, 2021
OCAT Shanghai took to Weibo in the early hours of Friday morning (2:49 AM Beijing time) to comment on the controversy, stating that, “After receiving criticisms from everyone, we immediately re-examined the content of the work and the artist’s work interpretation, and found that the concept of the work and the English title involved disrespectful and offensive to female friends, and the way the work was filmed is suspected of privacy infringement and other issues.”
OCAT decided to pull the video piece from the exhibition, and has closed the exhibition for adjustment. OCAT apologized in the same Weibo post.
The art institution also deleted a previously published WeChat article, which saw Song Ta describe his video work thus, “Within this seven and more hours long (the museum opening time) video you will see them show up accordingly from [sic] prettiest to ugliest. So if you want to see the campus queen, you have to go to the museum as early as possible. Otherwise, when the dusk comes, it will be a living hell in this place.”
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The hashtag #male artist sorts 5000 candid shots of women from prettiest to ugliest# has been read over 3 million times on Weibo. Heated discussions around the project are also taking place on Chinese website Douban.
One Douban user questioned the legality of the photographer shooting unsuspecting passers-by for use in a publicly exhibited piece of art, while another user spoke to the oversight of the art institution that exhibited the work, saying, “The most disgusting thing is that this was actually exhibited.”
Cover image: Weibo
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