Feng Mengbo, Chinese game artist

Feng Mengbo (冯梦) is a Chinese digital media artist living and working in Beijing. Born in 1966, at the very start of the Cultural Revolution, Feng’s art is heavily influenced by Mao Zedong’s enforced artistic policy of “social realism infused with heroic romanticism” [1]. Whereas most art in the realm of social realism is created in order to critique government policy and expose the bloody horrors of war, the art of the Cultural Revolution glorified suffering and violence as honorable and necessary sacrifices along the road to power.

However, the political climate which colored his childhood red and yellow did not stop Feng from taking a serious interest in the emerging world of gaming. At the age of 19, Feng graduated from the Beijing School of Arts & Crafts, and went on to receive a master’s degree from the Central Academy of Fine Arts in 1991. By this time, the Japanese arcade game Street Fighter had been popular for a number of years. Inspired by the pixilated art of SF and other popular games of the time, Feng began creating oil paintings that blended the uniquely digital visual style of games with iconic images of the late Chairman Mao and his Red Army soldiers. Early works such as Taxi! Taxi! (1994), which depict a pixilated double image of Mao apparently hailing a cab, seem born of the Political Pop movement of 80’s and 90’s China, when many artists sought to comment on contemporary China by “introduc[ing] a human scale to a mythical historical figure” [2]. Due to his connection with Political Pop, Feng’s work has never been exhibited in China. Feng has states he does not wish to be lumped into the Political Pop movement, explaining he would “rather be considered a game artist than a Political Pop artist…This doesn’t mean that I don’t care about history, simply that I can’t be responsible for it” [3].

 Taxi! Taxi! (Feng Mengbo, 1994)

My Private Album, a digital scrapbook which documented numerous generations of his family’s history, marked Feng’s entrance into the world of CD-ROM games and digital installations. Since 1996, he has worked mostly on creating video games and interactive pieces that blend Chinese sociopolitical commentary with observations of everyday life in the East and West.   

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