Absurdities: Peng Hung-Chih’s Farfur the Martyr
In Peng Hung-Chih’s two-metre-tall stainless-steel sculpture, Farfur the Martyr (2008), jets of water spurt out from the eyes, nipples, armpits, torso, knees and heels of a human body topped with a Mickey Mouse head. The slick figure is posed to evoke the image of Christ’s crucifixion; the water pouring from the sculpture suggests blood streaming from the wounds inflicted on Christ’s hands, feet, and chest as he was mounted on the cross. These jets of water sprinkle down into a Star of David-shaped pool at the base of the sculpture. Farfur the Martyr combines two quintessential images from Western visual culture, Jesus Christ and Mickey Mouse, to produce a familiar, yet uncanny, new icon.
'Farfur the Martyr' (2008) exhibited at the White Rabbit Gallery's 'Ritual Spirit' exhibition in 2018.
Farfur the Martyr recreates the crucifixion, one of the most significant religious images in the Western world, as a kitsch water feature. Peng’s sketches suggest that he considered various iterations of the fountain concept in the lead up to creating the work. In a line drawing from 2006, Peng depicted an image of Christ as a fountain, blood pouring from his wounds and splashing as it hits the surface of the liquid pooled at his feet. This drawing, mounted as a hanging scroll, was donated to the Judith Neilson/White Rabbit Collection Archive by the artist in 2018.
The Story of Farfur's Death (2006) donated to the White Rabbit Collection Archive in 2018.
Peng explored the fountain concept in another pencil sketch that depicts a Mickey Mouse figure with his body arched backwards, as if he has been shot, with liquid spurting from his exposed stomach.
Sketch by Pung Hung-Chih donated to the White Rabbit Collection in 2018.
A third pencil sketch most closely resembles the final iteration of Farfur the Martyr. Here, Peng sketched a human body in a crucifixion pose with a Mickey Mouse head,.
Sketch by Peng Hung-Chih donated to the White Rabbit Collection Archive in 2018.
In a statement describing the work, Peng Hung-Chih explained that Farfur the Martyr was created in response to a didactic Palestinian children’s television series on the Hamas channel, Al Aqsa TV. The protagonist in the series, Farfur, wears a Mickey Mouse costume. In the concluding episode of the series, Farfur is martyred by an Israeli agent.
Peng argues that in the television show the figure of Mickey Mouse is transformed from “an image used by US cultural imperialists to culturally colonise the children of the third world” into “a tool to oppose the US and Israel.” According to the artist, the Farfur character exists within a “complex power relationship,” operating as a “cultural symbol” that “accommodates” two conflicting meanings. Peng argues that the contradictions inherent to the Farfur character produce “distortions” that generate a "real” theatre of the absurd.
Peng’s sketches and drawings document how the artist distorted potent cultural symbols to create his own absurdist imagery, the final artwork reproducing the same conflicted quality he recognised in Farfur, the anti-American Mickey Mouse.
The Peng Hung-Chih Artist File was compiled by the White Rabbit Collection Research Team in 2018. The file includes materials donated by Peng Hung-Chih and material produced and collected by the White Rabbit Collection, including artist’s materials, drawings, documentary photographs, source images, interviews and correspondence. Find out more about Peng Hung-Chih's works in the White Rabbit Collection here.
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