IML-140: Summer 2010!
Video Remix Assignment

My chosen genre of the political remix video manifested in what can be considered a work of detournament. By juxtaposing footage of the recent Olympics in Beijing with that of this year’s earthquake rescue efforts in Yushu, my aim is to highlight China’s role in creating propaganda and the government’s negligence in resolving domestic problems. In short, my project is a critique of the China’s obsession with international projections of the country’s “face,” masking the reality of how China really responds to natural disasters and other domestic issues.

The 2008 summer Olympics that took place in Beijing resulted in an exceptionally orchestrated event with visually stunning opening and closing ceremonies. Produced and broadcast entirely in high definition, the Beijing Olympics cost $40 billion to perfect. In 2010, Shanghai hosted the World Expo, which cost $50 billion. Both events served to showcase China’s grandeur and rising power. Just in April this year, however, a 6.9 magnitude earthquake struck the predominantly ethnic Tibetan (97%) area of Yushu in Qinghai. According to official reports, over 2000 people were killed, and over 12000 injured.

Thousands of Tibetan monks rushed to Yushu County and were active in the search, rescue, and burial of victims. State authorities, however, told the monks to return to their monasteries when they arrived so as to not hinder their “relief operations.” Sidelined by Beijing’s unease with the heroism and influence of the Tibetan monks, the monks who had been the first to respond to the disaster were removed from state media. Amid hours of coverage for China’s national day of mourning, no monks were visible in the official proceedings. Li Changchun of the Politburo Standing Committee instructed the Propaganda Divisions to instead “promote the People’s Liberation Army, paramilitary police, and the guidance” from the Central CCP and State Council. But survivors say that the officers and soldiers did nothing when no cameras were around. “The only thing they did was put up the Chinese flag everywhere,” according to a monk. The disaster had become a PR campaign for the government.

Classified as a political remix video by Eli Horwatt’s taxonomy, my project “liberates information” by subverting state media. My intention was to undermine propaganda from within by using its own internal logic – the logic of saturation and intoxication of spectacular images. The Chinese government has used the spectacle of the Olympics and World Expo to saturate viewers with an uncritical acceptance of it. To combat this, I also saturated images that we don’t often see in juxtaposition – that of the tragedy and the government’s effort (or lack thereof) to help. The intensity of the footage negates the spectacle of the Olympics and World Expo. My aim is not only to expose China’s split personality, but to also remind viewers to think more critically of media and propaganda. Aurally setting the entire project to Metric’s “Help, I’m Alive,” I hoped to “trick” the viewer into thinking that the video would be about something fun and pretty; in actuality, however, the lyrics reveal to be more profound as the intensity of the earthquake footage manifests.

In terms of my work process, I utilized completely found footage from YouTube and pieced them together with Premiere Pro.

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