Interview of “Misty Masses and Merciless Mao” painting


So why did you decide to paint a second time the June 4th “incident” as the Chinese government calls it?

tiananmen square crowd

I thought about what might have gone through the heads of the leaders rolling tanks over civilians as a way to restore order.  It was just insane that that happened while in Eastern Europe they threw off the shackles of Communist leadership.

Here you see that the square was full. This square is 109 acres and is the 4th largest city square in the world.  If this were farmland, it would take 109 ox to plow it all day long or 61 soccer fields.  In other words, the protest was a serious challenge to the leadership holding onto power.

What were the symbols of the citizen protest?

lady liberty lady liberty in tiananmen

Besides mourning a popular leader dying, which then led to protests about democracy, Lady Liberty was the symbol of the stomped out revolution.

Did any popular leaders side with the students?

ccp leader with crowd

Actually, a CCP leader tried to calm the situation down on the ground so there wouldn’t be a massacre.  He was later purged of the party in full dishonor for trying to avoid civilian bloodshed, but more for this one photograph.

Most of the leaders were teachers and other leaders close to the student body and aware of the popular protest such as Liu Xiaobo.  Liu spoke to the crowds and help disperse the public before the tanks rolled over the remaining students. He likely saved thousands from an all out massacre of large scale.  For this he was rewarded with prison time.  20 years later he was sent to prison again for writing a Bill of Rights for Chinese government reform called Charter 08.

liu 2

How does the CCP government like to portray the event?

Well the current wife of the Chinese appointed president Xi Jinping was in fact part of the “mop-up” tank brigade operation.  She sang to the “heros” of the square that ran over students fleeing for their lives.  This photo that was once published in a military magazine is now banned on Chinese internet.

xi wife at tiananment

Another thing they like to do is have multiple military parades now to show they still are in power.

tanks in tiananmen military in tiananmen military parades tiananmen

They need an all powerful image to sell to their citizens and outside world. No one believes it, but they think it sells.

ccp propaganda

They want to forget this ever happened…

victims 1989

What are the images in your painting?

I have military flags used in the Song dynasty era that spell out 1 9 8 9 with chinese poetry in the background. I thought it would call out the brutalness of the “popular” unelected regime and their mindset of power at all costs.

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Wikipedia 1989

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Interview on “Riding the dragon on the plains of slaves” painting


So what does this title mean?

I used the analogy of the Matrix and the real-life cyber war rolling out by China and other major states to fight over information.

China has the largest cyber army organized to date. In the film of the Matrix, Neo enters the Matrix by taking the red pill. Ride the dragon is a slang term to take heroin for the first time. Another take on the title is the city of Shanghai, the source of the hacking, has a urban myth of a dragon living under the city itself unearthed by the current highway construction.



The second part “… on the plains of slaves” is a play on words of the human slaves in the movie, the “slaves” China freed when the conquered Tibet and the title song “Plains of Hope”. That song was sung to the army by the President’s 2nd wife at Tiananmen Square after massacring 3000 civilians to retake the square in 1989. That photo is currently banned in China. Currently, China is trying to sell her as the first lady of China of a modern politician, when really she is of the same fold of former autocratic rulers of China. As they say in Spain, she is a “chaquetera” or someone changing her jacket from Chinese Army to Chinese propaganda singer to first lady of China, but still backing the same autocratic regime her whole life.


Why did you choose Morpheus over Neo or Trinity?

At first I had thought of using Neo with the pose of looking straight on, but I likely better the father figure of Morpheus as the all-knowing prophet of the One in the movie. For this painting, I was focused on the masculine nature of warfare that I thought were best represented by the male characters in the movie.


What is the 61398 in the painting?

The Chinese army has a unit called 61398. That is the source of most of the world’s hacking currently. The Chinese symbol is “Dream” in Mandarin. This is the current aspirational theme of the latest Chinese government. I liked the idea of connecting their propaganda goodwill theme with the underside of hidden hacking attacks.


Why do you think the Chinese invest so much in hacking?

Basically, it is the premise of communism. First, you take over the land, factories and get rid of the intellectuals, which they did in the 1940s. After that you get famine and industrial crisis as the system is mismanaged without a thought of profit and property protection. Next, you need to continually steal by doing it outside of the country to maintain the stolen gains. Hence, they steal copyrights of IT companies, counterfeit major Western brands and hack into systems to get more patents. As they don’t back up private property and inventions, they are continually copying and stealing the new patents as they come out. Even today, all land is owned only temporarily by the citizens; after 70 years all the land reverts back to the government. It is basically a system of feudal land rights with the citizens as peasants.


Another purpose to the hacking is to watch and protect against the government losing power.

Why would the Chinese government fear losing power?

One reason is that as they stepped away from the tenants of communism towards autocratic capitalism, they don’t really represent the revolution they came to power to. If Mao were alive, he likely would have gotten rid of the current leaders.


Any type of autocracy is always threatened continually by the overthrow of the citizens as the economy goes bad. So the government uses this hacking group to raid Tibetan activists thinking that will allow them to finally rule Tibet successfully. Another group they persecute is the Uyghur region of China. Both groups are represented in the symbology of the painting. Additionally, much of the hacking is directed at controlling the flow of information within China to remain in power.


Why use the pose of Morpheus with a sub-machine gun?

Many will likely say this is an attack on the current anti-machine gun vs. gun rights debate. You could definitely see it that way. In China or other autocratic regimes, the government has the majority of guns while in democracies the citizenry has access to guns, which helps prevent autocratic tendency in government. Criminals have access to guns in either society.


My intention is that as this is basically another cold war with no military on the ground action, but massive cyber attacks by either side. A sub-machine gun from the film captures the reality that each side is armed and dangerous and this is a real war fought electronically.


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