Shanghai - Interviews

Shanghai from an Artist’s Perspective: an Interview with Xu Zhen

7 months ago

On the occasion of the launch of our new destination Shanghai, we asked artist Xu Zhen (born in 1977 and based in Shanghai, China) to share with our readers his perspective on the city art scene.
Xu is a conceptual artist whose work often takes the form of provocative sculptures, installations and interventions that confront sociopolitical taboos in contemporary China and freely manipulate western expectations of Chinese art and commerce.

Carla Ingrasciotta: You work within many different media and thematic structures, your practice has made you an enigmatic and groundbreaking figure in Chinese contemporary art. What do you think about this role that was given to you by the critics? Do you recognize yourself in it?

Xu Zhen: We belong to this kind of artists that can be seen while remaining impalpable.

C.I.: The thematic you are developing in your latest artworks examines the human experience of pain, pleasure and desire as well as the aesthetic manipulation of consumers in late capitalist societies. Could you tell us more about your idea and how is it translated in your artworks? 

X.Z.: First we are not trying to directly present these experiences. We create objects that can touch and move people. We organise feelings according to a certain logic, removing possibilities in a rational way, if an escape still remains then it becomes a new creation. 

C.I.: The artwork we chose as main featured image of our website is “Xu Zhen, In Just a blink of an Eye, 2005. Could you tell us something more about the performance and the process of creation?

Z.X.: This work was achieved in 2005. A lot of people see it as a performance, but i think it is more of a sculpture. This work has a certain energy that acts as an obstacle to continuous thinking. Just like its title “In Just a Blink of an Eye” the work reflects this empty feeling where one has to leave here and now.  

C.I.: As many artists you live and work in Shanghai. What is your relationship with the city? Does the city itself inspire your work?

Z.X.: I live in the reality created by an objective condition, as in the rules of a game.   

C.I.: Could you tell us five places in Shanghai you would suggest to someone who loves art?

Z.X.: Chongming Island. 

Carla Ingrasciotta

  • Xu Zhen, In Just a Blink of an Eye, 2005/2014. Performance, Photo credit: Mark Niedermann. 14 Rooms, Beyeler Foundation, Basel, Switzerland Xu Zhen, In Just a Blink of an Eye, 2005/2014. Performance, Photo credit: Mark Niedermann. 14 Rooms, Beyeler Foundation, Basel, Switzerland
  • Xu Zhen, photo Eric Powell, courtesy UCCA Xu Zhen, photo Eric Powell, courtesy UCCA
  • Zu Xhen, Under Heaven 2014 Zu Xhen, Under Heaven 2014
  • Xu Zhen, Just a Blink of an Eye, Performance, 2005/2014 Xu Zhen, Just a Blink of an Eye, Performance, 2005/2014

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