Mark Clare is an artist who engages, provokes and disturbs the viewers social conscience through his visual interpretations of the politics of globalization, society and public spaces.
Ping-Pong Diplomacy is a piece by Mark Clare consisting of a table tennis table constructed using re-cycled wood pallets and commercial floor boards. While the table appears to be built to official dimensions, it requires great skill and consideration to fully utilise its possibilities. While one half of the table exhibits a smooth finish, it is drastically contrasted by the chaotic appearance of the opposite half. Both sides have their qualities and shortcomings that must be understood to enable an individual’s skill toward a positive outcome.
Public arenas in Communist or ‘former’ Communist bloc countries traditionally included table tennis tables placed outdoors for recreational use by the local community. These tables are the remnants of a failed ideology that at one time offered a new hope and later symbolised ‘evil’ in a power struggle for political supremacy as perceived through Western Culture.
With this piece, Clare subtly draws our attention to a thaw in cold war relations between the USA and China, when on April 6th 1971, the American Ping-Pong team received a surprise invitation from their Chinese colleagues to compete in the People’s Republic. According to Time Magazine “never before in history has a sport been used so effectively as a tool of international diplomacy, with its premium on delicate skill and its onomatopoeic name, implies interplay of both initiative and response. Ping Pong was an apt metaphor for the relations between Washington and Peking.”