Tiananmen Square Censored Photos as Paintings, Made in China

June 4, 2013 | Kyle Chayka

Today is the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989 and China has cracked down on any search terms that could lead to the iconic AP photo of man vs. tanks, blocking search terms like “June 4” and “today.” The social network Weibo has been trying to go around this censorship with the memefication of the image to ridiculous degrees.

It seems like a proper time to bring up a project by artist and educator Michael Mandiberg. Mandiberg sent the image to the famous Dafen Painting Village in Shenzen, China — a factory community known for their cheap and quick reproductions of numerous master paintings. He did this “partly just to see if I could do it: the image is famous worldwide, but… is virtually unknown under Chinese national censorship.” Even decades later, for some regular citizens in China this commission was the only way they could see the image — in an art project from someone continents away.