Born in the inland city of Changsha, Zhou Tao currently lives and works in China’s third largest city Guangzhou, where he got his BFA degree in oil painting and MFA in mixed media studies from the Guangzhou Academy of Fine Arts. Since 2003 he has mainly worked with video. His art transforms real surroundings into a theatre, subject to a series of invented plotless events that are rooted in physical senses, evoked by environments and time, and expressed in a seemingly documentary language.
Zhou’s earlier works were usually body-based performances that explored human behaviour in public or private spaces. In Power Here (2008), he successfully ran four household appliances – an electronic fan, an infrared heater, a speaker and a floor lamp – on electric power obtained from various public facilities (such as traffic lights and streetlamps), and then in the exhibition space, showed video recordings of these events on monitors powered in the same way: obtaining power directly from the gallery facilities (rather than plugging them into power sockets). In Time in New York (2009), he puts a ball of string into his hip pocket, which unwinds as he moves around his apartment (and tacks it to walls, etc to leave a ‘map’ of his activities) until the string runs out and the apartment is home to the labyrinthine structure it created.
In addition to performance (space intervention) and video recording (visual writing), Zhou also drills into the space he works on for what he calls the ‘volume of time’ via painting, photography and writing. All these practices have formed an undivided whole, expressing the core of Zhou’s art: the sense and sensation of time.