Part III

Camouflaged Histories

Lei Yan, a participant in the Long March encounter with Judy Chicago, began her career as an artist in the Chinese military. The work she produced after her retirement performs an auto- ethnographic excavation of the socio-historical categories—woman soldier, military artist, and woman artist—that made her as both artist and woman. She works from within a national representational corpus, subjecting it to various experiments to reveal the fields of violence enacted from the Sino-Vietnamese War to the Sichuan earthquake. Lei Yan’s meditation through photography upon national, revolutionary iconography evolved into soft sculpture objects in cloth and paper. Their arrested ephemerality decenters the human subject, drawing attention to haunting absences in conventional stories of art, feminism, and nation. In comparison with the monumental work of Ai Weiwei, who also created pieces in response to the Sichuan earthquake, Lei’s art serves not to admonish but to bring back into consciousness lost lives and camouflaged histories.