The art industry has never taken forgery lightly. In Western culture copies can be seen as kitsh, ‘shanzhai,’ the Chinese word for imitation goods, has deep cultural roots in Cantonese society, where mimicry is seen as a form a mastery.
‘Imitation, imitation’ an exhibition by Zhenhan Hao, a graduate of the MA Design program at the Royal College of Art, explores the synergy between creativity and imitation. He worked with Chinese ‘copiers,’ who replicate emblematic art or designs, to help stimulate them to develop their own creative concepts inspired by the original style of the artist or brand. Hao also held a workshop with creatives in London to try to teach them how to mimic-draw a perfect circle. He explained the innovation in his project to Hyperalergic.
I have proposed a new production model for craftspeople in Dafen village and Jingdezhen to imitate and create at the same time. Together, we co-produced a series of improvised products that sought to inspire the imitators to explore their imagination and creativity. In London, I introduced Chinese imitation culture through a workshop with the absurd aim of drawing perfect circles.
In the same interview, he explains that he embraces concepts of emergence, self-organisation and co-evolution.
I think imitation and creativity are inseparable. We can hardly create anything one hundred percent original without directly or indirectly imitating existing practices. However, using imitation as a learning method or as a purpose makes a huge difference. My interventions aim to hack the process of singular imitating and copying process into a subconsciously creative process.
An artist that has more than ten years experience imitating Van Gogh paints a portrait of his own bedroom
A specialist in Rene Margritte paints a self portrait.
Images from Zhenhan Hao