Polluta Propaganda Woodcuts (Contradictoria)
2018 - ongoing
All prints are
woodcut (Oil-based ink on Cloud-dragon handmade paper)
image size: 18 x 23.5 inches / 45×60 cm
2018 - ongoing
In 2084, the imaginary country Contradictoria has solved its pollution problem with Plan Polluta. Under this plan, air pollution is condensed into building bricks, which are used to build arcologies called Polluta, floating green vibrant live/work colonies for artists! Artists can live, work and show for free, forever! It sounds too good to be true. It is.
Woodcut as an artistic medium has existed in China for over one thousand years, but underwent substantial changes and became a political tool in the twentieth century. Traditional Chinese woodcut, delicate and reserved for folklore and religious purposes, use Chinese ink and watercolours exclusively. They are unfailingly busy, colourful, cheerful and life-affirming. In the 1930–40s, Chinese writer and scholar Lu Xun, widely considered the father of the New Woodcut Movement, advocated for the use of woodcut as an effective tool to expose the social ills of China and to fight for equality for the poor and working class.
Unlike traditional woodcut, which featured fine lines and harmony, artists from this movement used bold, crude lines and printed with European oil-based printing ink. It was a time when China was not accessible to the rest of the world and vice versa. Using Western material was, of course, a political gesture.
Its history aside, this medium’s graphic and monochromatic physicality is ideal for spreading Polluta’s ecopolitical message. “Nine,” the edition number, is homonymous with “permanence” (very auspicious in the Chinese culture) and “dog” (generally considered lowly and insulting) in the artist’s native Cantonese language. This double wordplay tightly echoes the duality of Polluta’s narrative.
The ultimate goal of ninety-nine unique woodcuts will present infinite (the number nine also denotes infinity in Chinese culture) facets of Polluta, dazzling and ever-changing.
There are five imaginary countries in total: Contradictoria, the Aristocratic Union, Dreamland, Northlandia and the Republic of Strata. These five micro-narratives will eventually weave together a grand narrative of year 2084, portraying the artist’s imagined futuristic geopolitical world in the Anthropocene.
Production of woodcut prints was generously supported by Hong Kong Arts Development Council and Pure Art Foundation
"By using woodblock printing Michelle Fung has become a master of her art [...] That sharp intelligence like the tools she uses in making her woodblocks means her art is much more than an intellectual exercise. It comes from both head and heart.
Full of soul and beautifully crafted with the addition of a jazz like sense of improvisation, her work is absolutely unique."
Norman deBrackinghe, Photographer
"I am now coming to view your woodcuts not as JUST images to be looked at, but as works that must also be read/deciphered, consistent and appropriate with your ascribing them as being "compositions". Looking forward to viewing/reading more of the Polluta Propaganda, as conveyed via your growing Polluta Animal Woodcut Collection."
James Yopp, Microbiologist
read about the process
"Michelle Kuen Suet Fung’s Polluta blurs the boundary between whimsy and dystopia, as familiar symbols of the interconnected global network we live in and its abundant resources are punctuated by surreal images of environmental degradation, and suggestive slogans hint at an uncertain future.
Fung’s medium of choice—woodblock print in the form of propaganda poster—highlights the uneasy bond between seemingly disparate elements. Are cheerful mottoes used to uplift the masses, or do they serve a more sinister purpose, as the enigmatic visual elements of   Polluta intimate?
[...] Polluta reflects a universal, growing concern with the role of humans in the shaping of their environment, and heightened consciousness about the Anthropocene and planetary conditions. In its exploration of these themes, Polluta is reminiscent of modern and contemporary literature about lands real and unreal.
excerpt from “Imagining a New World in Michelle Kuen Suet Fung’s Polluta”
Angie Chau, Assistant Professor,
Department of Pacific and Asian Studies, University of Victoria