Zhang Huan: Asia Society

By Richard, Frances | Artforum International, January 2008 | Go to article overview

Zhang Huan: Asia Society


Richard, Frances, Artforum International


Few serious artists today could call their work "a metaphor for the human condition." Zhang Huan does--and with a straight face. He also states, "The body is my most basic language," and claims, "I wanted to measure myself against insurmountable limits." His recent retrospective, "Altered States"--the Asia Society's first for a living artist--examined three career periods. In the early nineties, in the art enclave of post-Tiananmen Beijing (dubbed the "East Village" after another once-risky hot spot), Zhang specialized in simple, grueling performances, confronting absurd situations with a stoic physicality. Often employing volunteers, he created works that presented collective effort as harmonious but pointless. In 1998, Zhang came to New York to participate in the Asia Society's "Inside Out: New Chinese Art," inaugurating the second phase of his practice. Meditative sacrifice continued, and bystanders were invited to participate in his performances in various ways. But the artist became an outsider, observed by a crowd rather than blending into a fellowship. It is understandable that such a psychological and cultural bargain might pall, and in 2006 Zhang returned to China, converting a Shanghai garment factory into a busy atelier and turning from performance to large-scale sculpture: his work's third phase.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Zhang's performances are documented in video and photographs, shown without attendant artifacts. The artist's first and second periods were linked via a system of symbols centered on themes of fortitude and purification. In these works, the willing body appears inked with Chinese characters, bedecked with meaty bones, or exposed to the elements, imprinting itself into and imprinted by various evocative substances. For To Add One Meter to an Anonymous Mountain, 1995, for example, Zhang and a group of "East Villagers" piled themselves on a windy mountaintop while a surveyor measured their combined height to the millimeter. It's chilly; they're pressed together naked; the group mixes men and women. Ideals of the mountain as transcendent hermitage are elliptically transgressed, yet honored. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • A full archive of books and articles related to this one
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Zhang Huan: Asia Society
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

    Already a member? Log in now.