Chen Zhen

Chen Zhen
b. 1955, Shanghai; d. 2000, Paris
Installation artist
Throughout his artistic career Chen Zhen was concerned with what he called ‘rongchao jingyan’ or ‘transexperience’. This not only describes his personal experience as a Chinese artist living in France since 1986 and working internationally, but also alludes to his concept of art and method of creation. Situated in between East and West, he employed materials, signs and concepts original to the Chinese tradition—including the most recent revolutionary tradition—and to contemporary Western culture. The interplay of material and conceptual juxtapositions in his mixed media installations aims at releasing a dynamic balance, to which he referred as ‘synergy’. He therefore sought to explore the correlation between technology and nature, community and individual, the body and the self, or again the material and the spiritual, aiming to propose a cure to the basic problems of mankind. One of his most compelling works, Fiffty Strokes to Each (Juechang, 1998), a set of large drums made from beds and chairs resembling a traditional Chinese musical instrument, invites the audience to perform, taking place in a kind of homeopathic ritual.
His late works, such as Zen Garden (2000)—an ensemble of five translucent inner organs, arranged in the model of a Zen garden—or Inner Body Landscape (2000), use the human body as metaphor. Chen’s work has been exhibited at venues around the world, including exhibitions such as the First Shanghai Biennial (1996), the Second Johannesburg Bienniale (1997), the 48th Venice Bienniale (1999) and finally ‘A Tribute’ at the P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center in New York (2003).
(1998) Chen Zhen. Montreal: Centre International d’Art Contemporain.
(2000). Chen Zhen—In Praise of Black Magic. GAM Galleria Civica d’Art Moderna e Contemporanea, Turin.
De Matté, Monica (1999). ‘Chen Zhen’. In d’Apertutto-Aperto Over All (exhibition catalogue). Venezia: Edizioni La Biennale di Venezia, Marsilio, 98–9.
Uslip, Jeffrey and Zur, Rachel (eds) (2003). Chen Zhen: A Tribute. New York: P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center.
Yang, Alice (1998). ‘Chen Zhen’. In idem, Why Asia? New York: New York University Press, 57–9.

Encyclopedia of contemporary Chinese culture. . 2011.

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