"I have to be underground even in the West"

About Zhao Bandi

Known as “the panda man,” Zhao Bandi has made a name for himself creating a series of paintings, sculptures, installations, and costumes featuring representations of, allusions to, and even feces from panda bears. Impervious to the hailstorm of criticism he faces for allegedly exploiting a beloved national symbol, Zhao clings to the panda motif, using it blur the boundaries between art, advertising, and political activism. For instance, an acclaimed photographic series features computer-enhanced photographs of himself in dialogue (through speech bubbles) with a stuffed panda about issues such as drug abuse, air pollution, violence, and unemployment. For Zhao, the panda symbolizes China’s one-child policy, but his criticism is indirect: “I realized Panda's potential as a spokesperson, that through him I could talk about culture and society in a soft, humorous way,” he says.

Chinese, b. 1966, Beijing, China, based in Beijing, China

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