‘Don’t Move’: Yang Zhenzhong at ShanghART, Beijing

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ShanghART Beijing is pleased to present a solo show by – Don’t Move (April 24 – May 31, 2011). Timed to coincide with Caochangdi Photospring 2011 in Beijing, this exhibition shall present both photography and video works by Yang that explore ideas relating to identity and narrative. Visit ShanghART’s website for more information on this exhibition: www.shanghartgallery.com

“Don’t Move” Exhibition

“Don’t Move” Exhibition

“Don’t Move” Exhibition

The main ground floor gallery shall be taken over by an immersive video installation, Don’t Move, which features 12 video projections of faces uttering the phrase “don’t move”, which also means “freeze!” in Chinese. The illuminated faces surround the audience in the dark exhibition hall as they each move, shake, and shudder in different orientations. The random timing of the uttered word from all four directions creates a soft disorientation that is intensified by the movement of the faces affected by the camera. The person uttering the word doesn’t move, only the camera moves. This work was originally created for the public environment at Shanghai FuxinPark in 2001.

In the smaller ground floor gallery, Yang shall show Spring Story, an important work from 2003 that has never been shown in Beijing. Originally created for the Siemens Arts Programme, Yang worked with over 1,500 employees of Siemens Shanghai Mobile Communications Ltd. to create a recitation of a seminal speech by Deng Xiaoping known as the “Southern Campaign Speech”. This speech, made in 1992 during Deng Xiaoping’s tour of southern China to gauge the success of his Opening Up Reforms, was used to garner support for the economic policies that now define China’s 30 year economic growth. Yang asked each employee to recite just a few words from the speech without giving any context, and edited the result to create the entire speech. Each employee, embodying their role in a production line, recreated the speech part by part – the speech that paved the way for this factory, and their jobs, to exist.

Yang Zhenzhong has created a new work for the upstairs gallery: Wrong Way Round is a series of double portraits of people from all walks of life wearing their clothes or uniforms back to front. Each double portrait consists of a photograph of the person facing the camera and with their back to the camera. Either their face shows or their formal/social identity shows, but the two cannot coincide.

This group of three works each deal with identity and narrative as two separate aspects of reality that we often take for granted as being naturally contiguous. Yang has dissected the different aspects of this reality and rearranged them in a way that gives poetic insight to its mechanisms, and shows that what can be constructed can be taken apart.


About Yang Zhenzhong

Born in Xiaoshan in 1968, Yang Zhenzhong now lives and works in Shanghai. He graduated from the oil painting department of the China Fine Arts Academy in Hangzhou in 1993 and began working with video and photography in 1995. Yang Zhengshong’s work has showed at major biennales and triennials including Venice (2003), Shanghai (2002), Guangzhou (2002) and Gwangju (2002). Yang Zhenzhong became famous in 2000 with his half-hour video “(I Know) I Will Die” that features short sequences in which a series of people speak the phrase “I will die” to the camera. It is a disconcerting, soberly presented film that confronts the viewer with existential questions.

Yang Zhenzhong recognizes that individual participation is the starting point for the transformation of perception. The video “922 Grains of Rice” plays with the interaction of the image of a cock and a chicken pecking grains of rice and the sound of a male and a female voice counting the number of pecked grains. It is a humorous representation of the battle of sexes as well a comment on today’s competitive behavior.

The desire to challenge normative notions of social behavior informs the practices of Yang Zhenzhong’s work. He is pre-occupied with China’s intrinsic disharmony and extreme discrepancies and often touches upon taboos such as death and out-dated social norms. His approach is metaphorical rather than narrative. His videos often start from witty ideas, employing image repetition and rhythmic coordination of sound, language and image. “Let’s Puff” (4th Shanghai Biennale, Zone of Urgency, 50th Venice Biennial) similarly starts from the interplay of two images: a young woman puffing and a busy street. Every time the woman breathes, the image of the street moves away from the viewer. The rhythm of the traffic and the angle of perception are altered with the rhythm of the woman’s breath.

Yang Zhenzhong’s playful videos are more than visual reflections; they are intelligent comments on the design of contemporary society. In a series of photos entitled “Light and Easy,” he perceives the weight of urban changes as an exterior phenomenon, and literally depicts the process as a weightless factor, turning urban landmarks upside down. “Light and Easy” is based upon a conviction that the lightness of the isolated exterior or interior is a source of interesting material. The successful experiments the artists have executed to formulate connections are exciting, sincere and disturbing. (ShanghART; Shanghai, China)