In 2013, Li Binyuan ran across Beijing, fully nude and bearing an enormous crucifix. Since then, he has enacted performances that involve solitary feats of endurance, such as jumping up and down for minutes while a train thunders past, or repeatedly falling to the muddy ground on a piece of land he inherited upon his father’s death.
Klaus Biesenbach, the director of MoMA PS1
, first encountered Li’s work during a visit to the artist’s Beijing studio. The trip was arranged as part of MoMA PS1 and the K11 Art Foundation’s joint research initiative connecting the institutions with emerging Chinese artists; the result was a two-person show at MoMA PS1, which opened this spring.
“Land: Zhang Huan and Li Binyuan,” running through September 3rd, includes videos and photographs documenting performances by the titular artists. It places Li’s work within an admirable lineage of Chinese performance art: ’s
influential works exploring the relationship between the body and the natural environment shaped the Chinese avant-garde for a generation.
Gallery Yang in Beijing first began showing Li’s work in 2013, the same year as his nude sprint across the city. But “Land” marks the artist’s first presentation at a major institution in North America. It follows a long list of shows across Asia, including a solo exhibition at Beijing’s Today Art Museum in 2014; two group shows at Shanghai’s Power Station of Art (in 2014 and 2015); and a 2016 performance for a group show at the Museum of Contemporary Art and Design in Manila (which involved Li wearing a Chinese guard’s uniform and standing stoically in front of a government building, much to the confusion of onlookers). This summer, he’ll take part in the Second Yinchuan Biennale, opening in June at the city’s Museum of Contemporary Art.