Cristina de Middel is a Spanish documentary photographer. To show the work she did in China, she decided to create a book that revisits the Quotations from Chairman Mao Tse-Tung (widely known as the little red book). Similar to Adam Broomberg & Oliver Chanarin‘s Holy Bible, she takes the book as is, with the original design and binding, and reproduces it with modifications. The intervention consists of erasing words with liquid paper to create new sentences; these new texts interact with photographs which are inserted between the pages in a different size and paper rather than printed over the text.
The book is a juxtaposition of Mao’s twisted words from the book that encapsulates the ideas that changed China to images of the actual present life of the country. The object is gorgeous and the images are magnificent; even the paper is seductive. As a book lover, I’m enticed by it; as an artists I’m repelled. The photographs, although beautiful, feel like they are taken by an outsider who is not really engaged with the people but rather making them exotic. As much as some spreads feel like she’s celebrating the Chinese population, others seem like she is making a judgment. I love how brilliant, funny and smart it is, but I question what it means for an outsider to make such a powerful statement about a political ideology so foreign to her.