Between Past and Future
Rong Rong
Rong Rong, East Village, Beijing, No. 20 (1994). This photo work documents a celebrated performance by Beijing artist Zhang Huan. Trained as a painter at the Central Academy of Fine Arts, Zhang Huan won recognition as a performance artist by subjecting himself to violent sensory assaults. In Twelve Square Meters, whose title refers to the size of the squalid public toilet in the artist’s impoverished neighborhood, Zhang Huan coated himself with honey and spent an hour in the foul-smelling toilet, with flies slowly covering his body. At the end of the period he walked into the water of a nearby pond. The performance enabled him, he said, to imagine his “essential existence” reduced to the level of waste. Rong Rong’s photograph creates an unforgettable symbol for maintaining one’s composure in a hellish environment.
In this section, many works document performances that use the human body to fashion sometimes disturbing metaphors for the violent changes that have swept through every corner of Chinese life in recent decades.
Rong Rong
Xu Zhen
Asia Society History and Memory Reimaging the Body People and Place Performing the Self International Center of Photography
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