Feng Mengbo

Today’s article is from our friends at Art Practical, where Matthew Harrison Tedford discusses the installation The Long March: Restart by artist Feng Mengbo currently on view at MoMA PS1.

Feng Mengbo at MoMA PS1 demands that viewers participate in the work’s unraveling. The Long March: Restart (2008), the installation coterminous with the eponymous exhibition, is a video game. The exhibition marks the first time Chinese Feng’s sixteen-bit video game has been shown in the United States. The medium forces an engagement with the work, or a reliance on other viewers’ engagement, in order to appreciate or even experience it. When no one else is in the gallery, or no one else is willing to play, the existence of the work depends entirely on one’s own ability to play the game.

Named after the 1930s Red Army retreats from the Kuomintang, the game stars a Mario-like protagonist clad in blue fatigues and a blue cap emblazoned with a red star. Following an introduction of alternating propaganda film stills overlaid with a Chairman Mao speech, the game begins with a heroic figure waiting idly in front of a giant red star with the Great Wall behind him in the distance. These initial scenes offer an ostensibly straightforward ideological frame for the game. Taking hold of the wireless remote control, one can send the soldier on his two-dimensional journey. The game’s aesthetic draws heavily on predecessors such as Super Mario Bros. and Street Fighter II and, in fact, the game includes their characters as combatants in The Long March.

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