Tank Man 20
Art | 26 August 2010

Tank Man 20

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Tank Man 20 is a collaborative project I organized last year at Tyler School of Art. Over 90 first year students enrolled in Foundation Computers participated in the creation of the piece. 2009 marked 20 years since the events at Tiananmen Square took place. I thought it fitting that a new generation of students should reflect on the role that the media played in the creation and proliferation of such an iconic image – that of the tank man. Also, I wasn’t surprised to learn that many of my students were unaware of the events at Tianenmen Square. They did recognize “tank man” as an important cultural reference.

The first step was to screen a really great documentary created by PBS for Frontline in 2006. The entire program is available to watch online and it’s really fascinating! After the screening, it was up to the students to remix and remake the tank man image in whatever way they saw fit. The students were aware of the ultimate goal, that their single image would be chopped up into a grid and presented in an ever-rotating online presentation of all 90+ images.

The end result is an ever-changing flash animation in which over 1,800 images are pulled to reformulate the tank man image. The online project can be viewed at www.TankMan20.com. Each student’s individual piece can also be viewed under the credits section which links to every complete image. Jessica Lee, a student enrolled in one of my Fall 2009 courses created one of my favorite remakes. Her simple technique of erasing out of the tanks and the unidentifiable tank man to an all-but ghost image is really effective. It makes me think of events and how they are remembered and reinterpreted through our later understanding of them. Tatyana Grechina, also enrolled in one of my courses, remade the image using a beautiful mix of three-dimensional and two-dimensional textiles.

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