As internet development in China steers online activities away from web pages towards opaque mobile apps and ephemeral social media platforms, preserving the varied repertoires of linguistic and visual creativity of a billion local users becomes a pressing task. From remixed TV ads and toad worship to nonsensical sounds and unlikely celebrities, 精神污染 Spiritual Pollution records a necessarily partial sample of Chinese digital folklore from the 2010s. The term 精神污染 jīngshén wūrǎn, 'spiritual pollution', was first used in a 1983 campaign led by the Chinese Communist Party against humanist liberalism. Three decades later, the term was reappropriated by internet users to describe content characterized by repetitive elements, brainwashing motifs and unusual aesthetics, which can induce strong psuchological and emotional reactions from viewers. Created with the support of a Rhizome Microgrant, 精神污染 Spiritual Pollution consists of five narrative archives showcasing webpages collected between 2017 and 2020, each chronicling the trajectory of a specific term, persona or practice from Chinese digital folklore.
Gabriele de Seta | 2023-06-20 | Layout based on Rhizome's Our First Social Media President