Xu Zhen: Beyond Anticipation

If you were a young person entering society your body would naturally be in conflict with your physical surroundings.

Xu Zhen

Artist Xu Zhen's 1998 work Rainbow led him to be the youngest Chinese artist ever to have participated in the main thematic exhibition of the Venice Biennale when he did so in 2001.

When he created it in the late 1990s, he was a young, recently graduated artist participating in the underground art scene of Shanghai. In this video, he talks about his work in the context of this unique time and place.

In Rainbow, an unseen hand repeatedly hits a bare back, which reddens with each strike. The static framing paired with dubbed sound suggests a long progression of time and examines the tension between the seen and the unseen by removing the act of violence and leaving only its trace.

Xu Zhen (born 1977, Shanghai) graduated from the Shanghai School of Arts and Crafts in 1996. Since then he has produced conceptually-driven and controversial projects as an artist, curator, and founder of MadeIn, a company he set up in 2009 to collaborate with a group of artists and technicians. He works in photography, installation, video, and performance; his work contains a level of theatrical humour and criticises social conventions, reflecting the infinite possibilities of contemporary culture.


Objects from the M+ Collections featured in this video:

Xu Zhen. Untitled 3, 2003. Chromogenic colour print. M+, Hong Kong. ©Xu Zhen
Xu Zhen. Rainbow, 1998. Video (color, sound). M+, Hong Kong. ©Xu Zhen
Xu Zhen. Untitled 1, 2003. Chromogenic colour print. M+, Hong Kong. ©Xu Zhen

Video Credits

Produced by M+
Camera: CPAK STUDIO
Editor: Anafelle Liu
M+ Curatorial Research: Isabella Tam, Ethan Cheng
M+ Video Production: Chris Sullivan, Jaye Yau, Elaine Wong
M+ Transcript and Closed Captions: LW Lam, Ellen Oredsson, Amy Leung
Special Thanks: Xu Zhen