Cross a wholesale market, an assembly line and a village and you’ll get Dafen, the factory of replica paintings. It’s impressively witty to see that villagers have converted the cliché of Chinese copyright infringements into a specialist export, a tourist attraction and even an art in itself! A new degree of authenticity is born!

There are other blooming “art spaces” within large Chinese cities. The works are consumed solely within the exhibition sphere to lure investments that piggyback from the ever-fashionable cultural cluster. The production and display of Dafen merchandise evolves solely around the mass market. Without the pomp, revenue is produced directly from sales. This is consumable art, without the frills, where visitor can scratch the primal urge to own.

“I knew I’d made it when I saw my stuff in counterfeit stores.”

The salon acts in the same way as the replica Apple Store, creating the landscape to immerse visitors into a roller-coaster ride of creating a desire that was never there. Fake Louis Vuitton bags and the commotion created around its clamp down are the most effective brand awareness campaigns.

A cultural minister couldn’t have done a better job at implanting aspirations. These entry-level replicas act as gateways to acknowledging art, wetting buyers’ cultural appetite for the next dream.

Behind the glitz and glamour of purchase adrenaline, the seams of reality emerge. Size does come at a price. However if the difficulty of DIY delivery taints the thrill of an impulsive order, the prospect of finding a room large enough to house such a vision might be even more of a challenge. Maybe the struggle is really displaying the spaciousness of their room.

If guests have to be backed into the wall to watch the 70″ investment Plasma TV, would they be pressed against the TV to admire the painting?

Painters humbly reshape the canvases to around internal facades and accommodate domestic challenges.

Framing becomes mundane in the village. Residents witness daily decisions about paint frames as if they’re buying spinach from a corner store. Even toddlers have become connoisseurs, explaining about weights, woods and plaster mouldings and how to balance the frame to complement a painting – all in cultivated baby language.

Written by Lisa Ma

Lisa Ma socializes activism. Combining ethnographic research and speculative design, Lisa creates platforms of engagement from surprising insights and processes that deeply resonate with the global technological community. The emergence of clicktivism – to protest at the click of a mouse – is trivializing activism. Lisa argues that although activism doesn’t necessarily benefit from technology, we need to evolve how activism contributes to technological societies. To illustrate this, she designs dilemmas and creates social events that are perceived as activism but function as services.


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