Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte once said of China, Let her sleep, for when she wakes, she will shake the world. Whether China was indeed sleeping then is secondary to the countrys global presence today. If the 20th century was the American century, the current one belongs so far to a nation whose possessions range from American art to American debt.
Although itself a huge producer of art and artists, China, like the previously emerging nation of Japan, has developed an equally out-sized interest in American culture. Yet, while Japan took its cues from Americas raucous youth, China has gone even further, importing American architects and designers to recreate in Beijing the sleepy gated communities of Americas middle-aged middle class.
In Henry Tsangs cumulative four-channel projection Orange County (2003), we see a figure walking past four of these gated-off houses, followed by a similarly dressed figure and then another and another. Soon all four figures appear before a single house in a single projection. We think we are in California until we see four Chinese soldiers pass by in the opposite direction.
For his part, Kotama Bouabane addresses Americas own historical distillation of the world in Follow Suit (2012), a series of variously scaled photographs based on a Beijing-area theme park whose name means the world. Here, in pictures staged and not, we see structures similar to those in Tsangs video, as well as structures that are both out of place and out of time, such as New York's former Twin Towers.