hG commission: Yang Zhenzhong’s “Let’s Pray”

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The video installation Let’s Pray was commissioned by the haudenschild Garage and filmed during ‘s residency at the haudenschild Garage from October 22 – November 12, 2003. Yang Zhenzhong was invited as part of the exhibition Zooming into Focus: Contemporary Chinese Photography & Video from the Haudenschild Collection.

Let’s Pray was produced in collaboration with Tina Yapelli of the University Art Gallery of San Diego State University and premiered at the Museum of Photographic Art, San Diego on January 31, 2004.

Prior to the video installation premiere at MOPA, Christopher Phillips introduced the video screening, Chinese Video and Film NOW!;   present in cooperation with the Museum of Modern Art, New York. The videos included Song Dong’s My Motherland Made the Scene for Me, 1999; Wang Gognxin’s Fly, 2000; ’s Rabid Dogs, 2002; and Yang Fudong’s Seven Intellectuals in Bamboo Forest (Part I), 2003.

Additionally, while in residence, the haudenschild Garage helped produce and supported Yang Zhenzhong’s filming of the Spanish and English portions of his video I Will Die in San Diego and Tijuana. The ten channel video was later chosen for the 2007 Venice Biennale.

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. (ShangART; Shanghai, China)