Zhang Huan

BIOGRAPHY

1965-

Zhang Huan was born in Anyang, Henan Province, China. Huan began his work as part of a small artistic community, known as the Beijing East Village, located on the margins of the city. The group of friends from art school pioneered this particular brand of performance in China and Huan was often reprimanded by officials for the perceived inappropriateness of his actions. Huan's performances always involve his body in one way or another, usually naked, occasionally involving masochistic actions. For example, an exhibited photography showed him as "a naked man, his head half-shaved, sitting in a prison like space. His skin was wet and covered with flies. His face looked blank but tough, as if he were trying to meditate his way through pain."


For the To Raise the Water Level in a Fish Pond series, the artist says: I invited about forty participants, recent migrants to the city who had come to work in Beijing from other parts of China. They were construction workers, fishermen and labourers, all from the bottom of society. They stood around in the pond and then I walked in it. At first, they stood in a line in the middle to separate the pond into two parts. Then they all walked freely, until the point of the performance arrived, which was to raise the water level. Then they stood still. In the Chinese tradition, fish is the symbol of sex while water is the source of life. This work expresses, in fact, one kind of understanding and explanation of water. That the water in the pond was raised one metre higher is an action of no avail.


Huan has exhibited at shows including the 2002 Whitney Biennial and Rituals at the Akademie der Künste in Berlin. He is based in Shanghai and New York.