Though trained as an oil painter, Zhu pioneered video art in China, and since the late 1980s he has only worked in video and photography. His best known works offer dizzying views of urban life.
“Did they have sexual relation?” is a series of black and white snap shots. And the shooting process resembles a street performance. He asked an assistant to hold a panel with the above mentioned sentence in front of arbitrarily chosen couples on the street and took photos. Then, they appear to be a kind of evidence of crime investigation. He uses the powerful function of photography as a way to impose “truth” on casually grasped fragments of reality to tackle a highly sensitive issue of sexuality in a society without much space for individual freedom and intimacy. In this context, the sentence attached to their images seems to be a kind of affirmation, or even accusation, rather than a question in spite of the question mark at the end. However, the connections between the people arbitrarily related together as couples are so uncertain and unreliable that they become quasi comic. However, this is a purported imitation of the methods frequently resorted to by the authority to impose its version of reality, or the official truth, in both everyday life and political and cultural discourses. This is a kind of prejudging affirmation or accusation that one has hardly the right to argue against. By appropriating this strategy, Zhu Jia once again puts scepticism of the imposed truth at the very centre of the pubic gaze.
About Zhu Jia 朱加
A seminal figure in contemporary Chinese video art, Zhu Jia trained in oil painting but has worked exclusively in photography and video since the late 1980s. His work, stylistically minimalist but not without a visual punch, interrogates aspects of the quotidian during a time of profound economic, social, and political transformation, touching upon socially taboo topics and the mundane. In works like Forever (1994) and Continuous Landscape (1999-2000), Zhu takes his camera on a dizzying course through Chinese cities, offering new means of making sense of a rapidly changing urban environment. Recent Chinese history, including the legacy of the Cultural Revolution and the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests, and the state’s uncomfortable relationship with contemporary art, also bear heavily on Zhu’s work.
Chinese, b. 1963, Beijing, China, based in Beijing, China