Single-channel video, color, sound, 22’30”
In 1999, shortly before the accession of China to the World Trade Organization, the People’s Bank of China issued the fifth edition of Renminbi banknotes, which are still in use. For the first time, a single portrait of Mao Zedong is featured on every denomination of Renminbi banknotes. The color tone of the largest denomination bill (100-Yuan) has been changed to a bright pink, in stark contrast to its greyish predecessor. Despite the fact that the 100-Yuan bill is actually pink, the People’s Bank of China officially claimed it was “red” and the bill is jokingly known as the “red grandpa Mao”. Pink is often stereotyped as a “feminine color”, while the male leader’s portrait is supposed to represent a strong masculine character, hence the juxtaposition of “Pink” and the “Leader’s Portrait” on Renminbi banknotes is worthy of further investigation. On the other hand, as digital payment methods gradually replace cash payments, banknotes are becoming “invisible”. Interwoven with contemporary everyday images and historical materials, this essay film contextualizes and discusses the representation of the Mao-portrait on the banknotes and the crisis it is experiencing in the digital age.