Deconstructing Gu

A few months ago, Scott wrote about “Dartmouth’s Hairy Exhibit” — a massive sculpture created from hair collected from thousands of Dartmouth College students, faculty, staff, and local residents, by avant-garde Chinese artist Wenda Gu. There figured to be quite a story behind this exhibit, one which implicated the byzantine politics of China, Dartmouth, and the art world.
Today, in the Dartmouth Independent, Jared Westheim tells that story. Westheim went to China to prepare a documentary film about Wenda Gu. Initially, he was “completely sold on the legitimacy of Gu’s project.” But the more he learned, the less sold he became.
The tale Westheim tells is a multi-layered one, with most layers being at least vaguely scandalous. For example, working conditions in Gu’s Shanghai studio were “worrying.” Conditions at a local factory which also participated in the production of the exhibit may have been problematic as well. When Westheim sought access to the factory, Gu became enraged and the visit never occurred. In addition, there were child labor issues at Gu’s studio.
There was also evidence that Gu didn’t actually produce the works on display at Dartmouth by his own hands. Instead, it appeared that his commissions were being manufactured by hired workers, raising questions about the level of Gu’s artistic input and control.
Meanwhile, back in Hanover, there seemed, inevitably, to be some confusion about the point of the hairy exhibit. In a press release, Dartmouth said, “Wenda Gu


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