Shanzhai (山寨) refers to the counterfeiting of Western brands by Chinese companies. Originally denoting a “mountain stronghold” for bandits, shanzhai has recently adopted several punkish connotations including anti-authoritarianism, parody, grassroots ingenuity and user-driven innovation. While popular discourse on this phenomenon has focused on its emancipatory potential, some have argued that shanzhai culture is more complex.
Narratives of shanzhai are appropriated to construct a collective imaginary of resistance and democracy, but the transitional nature of contemporary Chinese society means that these acts of rebellion are often subsumed in the logic of neoliberalism, complicated further by state-market alliance. Shanzhai is a cultural myth, as scholars Zhang and Fung succinctly put it, and “is sustained by a parasitic relationship to the mainstream and the powerful.” Exploring the interplay between branding and functionality, Chan's work is interested in the provocations around appropriation, commodity and cultural fantasy.
Shanzhai Ad Campaign was presented in OUROBOROS : THE END IS THE BEGINNING IS THE END, Firstdraft, Sydney. Curated by Justin Shoulder.