Zhang Huan

Zhang Huan
b. 1965, Anyang, Henan
Performance artist
Zhang Huan was trained as an oil painter, first in the Department of Fine Arts of Henan University (1984–8) and then at the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing (1991–3). He was banned from public spaces after his first performance (Angel, 1993) with the Dongcun (East Village) group, causing the cancellation of the show planned at the China Art Gallery. For the following five years Zhang organized his performances in informal spaces in Beijing—such as old suburban houses, village toilets, rural fish ponds, etc.—documenting them through video and photography. After moving to New York in 1998 he quickly gained international recognition with his on-site performance, New York Fengshui, at the ‘Inside-Out’ show (1998) at P.S.1 where he lay naked on a slab of ice placed on a traditional Chinese bed. Ever since he left China all his performances have been carried out publicly. Zhang has shown at important New York galleries like Deitch Projects (2000) and Luhring Augustine (2001), and has taken part in international exhibitions including the 1999 Venice Biennale and the 2002 Whitney Biennial.
Zhang Huan’s early performances focused on the spiritual as well as physical pressures experienced at an individual level by exposing or torturing the body to often shocking situations of physical coercion. In his performance 65 KG (1994) in Beijing he tied his body with an iron chain to a beam and let his own blood drip through a clinic tube onto an electrically heated pan.
In his more recent works, Zhang has explored the relationship between his own and other bodies by organizing group performances featuring dramatic choreographies with people from different cultural backgrounds. In My America (2000) naked men and women followed him in Qigong practice. Zhang Huan lives and works in New York.
(2002). Zhang Huan (exhibition catalogue). Madrid: Xunda de galicia and Cotthem Gallery.
Gao, Minglu (1998). ‘From Elite to Small Man: The Many Faces of a Transitional Avant-Garde in Mainland China’. In Gao Minglu (ed.), Inside/ Out. New Chinese Art. Berkeley: University of California Press, 149–66.
Qian, Zhijian (1999). ‘Performing Bodies: Performance Art in China’. Art Journal 58.2:60–81.

Encyclopedia of contemporary Chinese culture. . 2011.

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