Sunday, April 3, 2011

Chinese Performance Artist Zhang Huan

Zhang Huan, Family Tree, 2000. Still Photograph of a performance in New York.

Of all the contemporary Chinese artists working today, Zhang Huan has always stood out to me as a dominant force. He has recently turned away from performance art and back towards more traditional media; but, his current work still emulates his spirit and conveys complex ideas. In his performance work he has often addressed the complicated issues surrounding identity, particularly what it means to be Chinese and yet live in the convoluted global society of today. He intensely examines the difficult issues of how one can hold onto Chinese traditions while still moving forward into contemporary life and thought.

He has said of this piece: "I invited 3 calligraphers to write texts on my face from early morning until night. I told them what they should write and to always keep a serious attitude when writing the texts even when my face turns to dark. My face followed the daylight till it slowly darkened. I cannot tell who I am. My identity has disappeared. This work speaks about a family story, a spirit of family. In the middle of my forehead, the text means "Move the Mountain by Fool (Yu Kong Yi Shan)". This traditional Chinese story is known by all common people, it is about determination and challenge. If you really want to do something, then it could really happen. Other texts are about human fate, like a kind of divination. Your eyes, nose, mouth, ears, cheekbone, and moles indicate your future, wealth, sex, disease, etc. I always feel that some mysterious fate surrounds human life which you can do nothing about, you can do nothing to control it, it just happened."

You can see more of the artist's works and read more about him on his website at:

A video clip where he talks about some of his most recent work.

May inspiration and creativity be with you!

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