Red 1997-2007 is the second photobook by Chinese artist Mo-Yi and accompanies the exhibition “Study - Red 1982-2017” at Zen Foto Gallery (June 23rd - July 19th 2017).

Time flew by. Today when I was trying to go through these works, I recalled that I still have a large collection of street snapshots taken without the red flashlight and realized how I have been paying extra attention to anything red that appeared in sight since the 1980s. The color red is exceptional in China. In other countries the color is widely used during revolutionary and socialist movements period. Once the period passes, red becomes scarce. Yet only in China, red is deeply rooted in the ethnic culture: New Year couplets, double happiness calligraphy and firecrackers; In the common streets: street signs, door gates and advertisements; In common people’s homes - even their quilted beddings might be red. However, red that appears in great quantities on purpose is usually related with the politics: the red scarf that was tied around my neck when I was 7 years old, the little red book of “Quotations from Chairman Mao Tse-tung”, the red badges that millions of Red Guards wore, the red party flag that members have to face when they join the group, the red cloth that covers the corpses of senior officials, and till this day, all kinds of red banners used for propagandas still appear everywhere on the streets.

Is red the memory of “revolution” during Mao’s era? Does it represent passion, desire, blood, and war? Or is it stimulating our eyes for a primal reaction? I need to ask myself why “red” continuously appeared in my artworks — Have I chosen you time after time, or have you chosen me since a long time ago in between all the chaos?

— Mo Yi

Artist Profile


Born in Tibet in 1958, Mo Yi is a professional football player turned artist. Widely recognised as one of the most important artists of Chinese Contemporary Photography that emerged from 1980s, Mo captures the alienation and oppression of urban life in China, often with the artist intervening and appearing in the image. Mo has exhibited in many institutions and art festivals, including Museum für Fotografie (Berlin, Germany, 2017), Three Shadow Photography Art Centre (Beijing, China, 2010), and the seminal travelling exhibition “Between Past and Future: New Photography and Video from China” (International Centre of Photography, New York, USA, 2004-2006). Mo’s work is included in the collections of the Chinese Image and Video Archive (Canada), Guangdong Museum of Art (China), Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (U.S.A), and the Walther Collection (USA).

Gallery Exhibitions