Born in Luoyang (China), 1957Lives & works in Hangzhou (China) Very active in: 80s, 90s, 2000s, Current decade
In the course of experimenting with a video camera in 1988, Zhang became the first artist in China to make videos and has been an influential figure in contemporary Chinese art. His works have been featured in many important international exhibitions, including Hou Hanru?s Zone of Urgency exhibition at the 2003 Venice Biennale and the Museum of Modern Art in New York.
His early work documented performances that concentrate attention on a single activity. In "30 x 30" (1988), he broke a mirror and glued the fragments together. Then he shattered the glass once again, and painstakingly repaired it.
"Hygiene" (1991) records a peculiar private event - a chicken is placed in a washbasin and lathered with soap for two hours. The bird is remarkably obedient, rarely flapping its wings or otherwise evading the hands that turn the poor creature into a water-logged feather duster. The form of hygiene visited on the chicken makes about as much sense as washing a child's mouth with soap for saying something that the kid did not understand.
The installation "Eating" details three points of view. The top monitor focuses on ear movement during chewing, and the base monitor shows a knife and fork attacking a piece of cake. These composed, fairly static shots are in color. Separating them is a black and white action view of the cake traveling from plate to mouth. Shot with a camera taped to the eater's wrist - the disorienting perspective turns eating into a surreal event. The delivery of morsels to a gaping mouth seems appropriate for predators living at the bottom of the sea.
"Last Words" is a remaking of old Chinese patriotic movies. He extracted numerous scenes of communist heroes gasping their last words before dying, from those 1950s and 1960s revolutionary fictions, which were once the only entertainment during the Cultural Revolution and almost every scene of which was deeply rooted in the memories of the generation from that time. He then assembled the extractions into a loop of 15 minutes.
"Last Words" interrogates, in an ironic fashion, the patriotic discourses and semiotics, which have been woven into the very fabric of the modern Chinese politics and culture. He examines and re-tailors the representations of heroes of a recent past, and is apparently aimed at upsetting our firmly settled memories.
His works are present in many collections, such as The Museum of Modern Art, New York, the Centre National des Arts Plastiques, France, the Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, the Fukuoka Asian Art Museum, Japan, the Pacific Asia Museum, Pasadena, U.S.A, the Galeria Helga de Alvear, Spain, the Singapore Art Museum, Singapore, the Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane, Australia, and the Annie Leung Art Foundation.