About ‘Time Lapse In Beijing’ by Alice Wielinga
The series ‘Time Lapse In Beijing’ describes a lapse in time. The series illustrates the possibilities of what would happen should three important historical periods occur at the same time. The periods consist of Imperial China, the Cultural Revolution Era and post-Olympic modern China. Characters from these eras meet and cause a comical generation/cultural clash at the Forbidden City of Beijing.
The panoramas are greatly inspired by artifacts and paintings from the Qing Dynasty. Alice came across these items at the Royal Academy of Arts while she was living in London. The series is an outcome of Alice’s fascination with these particular Chinese paintings that convey rich stories and are vast in detail.
The backdrop of the first panorama is the Forbidden City 1. In this image, a Starbucks 2 is found on the left, and the emperor is enjoying a cup of Starbucks brew. To the emperor’s right are his three servants; one of them is attempting to serve the emperor a cup of coffee laced with poison. The sight of the emperor’s support of capitalism as Starbucks symbolizes, outraged three People’s Liberation Army (PLA) soldiers. Two pass-by tourists are bewildered by the sight of it and are trying to document it by taking pictures with their digital cameras; another tourist is confused by the map on the audio guide. On the far right, an empress is forcing a concubine to commit suicide by throwing herself into the well.
In this image, the emperor is doing his daily stroll around the Palace. He is infuriated when he sees a toddler tourist using the palace ground as her bathroom and none of the servants know how to handle the situation. In the center of the image, the working-class (farmers) from the Cultural Revolution Era are conforming to Chairman Mao’s propaganda. A phoenix appears above the girl’s wheat bunch and a dragon flies out of the boy’s bucket3. On the right, the empress is departing the palace with a few governors and generals.
“Hey, walk a little faster!” says the propaganda slogan on the left. A group of communist supporters are seen reenacting one of Chairman Mao’s famous propaganda posters. There is a dragon boot filled with tourists in the center of the image, a wave resembling the painting of Hokusai, a dragon submersing into the lake, and the empress and her servants in the pavilion. One of these servants has discovered a mobile phone and took advantage of it. In 1644, the last emperor of the Ming dynasty hanged himself and left a suicide note. The words of this note can be found on the right side of the image.
Set on a street in the Qing Dynasty, three tourist are debating to get portrayed as the last empress Cixi. On the left side of the image we see two tourists enjoying a McDonald’s meal, not caring about littering the monumental street.
Set in the Summer Place, three dragons are flying over the Kunming Lake. Each boat represents a different period in the Chinese history. The boat on the left represents the imperial times, the boat in the middle represents the contemporary period, and the boat on the right represents the Chinese Revolution period. These three periods are a recurring and the major theme in this series.
In addition to the panoramas, Alice has recreated a portrait of Cixi, the last empress of China. The original 1905 portrait was by the Dutch painter, Hubert Vos. The portrait is now being exhibited at the Summer Palace in Beijing.