Columbus Sculpture Replicated with Chinese Knockoff
In 2017, a 14-foot, interactive 3D sculpture, dubbed “As We Are,” was unveiled at a newly renovated Greater Columbus Convention Center. The sculpture came from the mind of College of Art & Design associate professor and artist Matthew Mohr as a comment on social media, diversity, and “representation of self.”
At the time of its unveiling, officials hoped “As We Are” would become Columbus’ first signature attraction. Whether that hope has come to fruition remains to be said — but across the world, a sculpture bearing resemblance to Mohr’s piece confirms the word has gotten out.
Mohr was made aware of the resemblance of a Chinese commissioned sculpture to his work by an MFA student and even strangers within the Chinese art community.
The piece superimposes visitors faces onto the face of a terracotta warrior, a funerary art piece recognizing the armies of the first Emperor of China. The piece was apparently built as part of a Chinese New Year celebration in Xian, China.
Mohr says CCAD MFA candidate and photographer Jiahao Peng was able to interpret the backlash on social media the piece was getting from the public, who criticized the sculpture’s “creepy” design, and other people within the community have emailed him to apologize.
“What’s interesting to me was that the art community sort of rose up against the copying of the piece,” he says. “So while China does have this reputation for IP theft, I think there’s a vibrant art community over there that is really trying to get around that perception and they’re willing to stand up and say something about it too.”
Mohr has been pretty upset by the piece, which he points out is noticeably of “substandard” facial technology and LED quality.
“Nobody wants to have their work stolen,” he says. “In a way, this is part of my voice, part of what I’m trying to bring into the world, and to have it copied poorly has really, really kind of took the wind out of my sails in a lot of ways.”
He says based on the quality of the piece, it appears that compromises were made, which didn’t help public perception.
“They took an art piece, and they turned it into a tourist attraction. That kind of ticks me off,” he says. “They didn’t really understand the power of what I was trying to say with that piece and cheapened it.”
From what Mohr has been told, the attraction was very quickly taken down by officials. But he has also heard rumors that the attraction may return.
In any case, he has other projects in the works that he is excited to unveil, including a piece being built in Santa Monica, and a new commission for a development here in Columbus. He also has plans for other pieces that are digital and physical in nature.
“The focus is really not on technology, that focuses on creating a moment that reconnects us with who we are,” he says. “I love technology, but it’s not the point. The goal is to create something that communicates on a different level.”
He says the response from artists halfway around the world has made the initial disappointment hurt a lot less.
“I just keep coming back to the Chinese art community. Jiahao was super helpful in bringing my spirits back,” he says. “This is a bump in the road, but it’s certainly not the end of anything.”
For more information on Matthew Mohr, visit his website.