Artist: Zhao Zhao
Curator: Cui Cancan
Opening: September 3, 2016, 4 PM
Exhibition Dates: September 3 to October 22, 2016
Tang Contemporary Art is proud to announce the opening of “ZHAO ZHAO” on September3rd. This solo show will be his most important solo exhibition of the last ten years, presenting three all-new works: Project Taklamakan, Suit, and Knife. The exhibition will be curated by Cui Cancan.
In October 2015, Zhao Zhao began working on Project Taklamakan in Xinjiang. He and a thirty-strong team traveled the 4,000 kilometers from Beijing with a 100-kilometer 4-core cable and a refrigerator. After arriving in the northern part of the Taklamakan Desert, they transported these materials into the desert on a refitted Pathfinder. In order to pass strict inspection systems, Zhao Zhao played the roles of a contractor and an advertisement director when he interacted with people. After arriving in Tailun, they connected the electricity to a household in the Uighur community, then trailed the cable out toward the center of the desert. The journey took 23 days and used 10 transformers,in order to prevent any losses in power transmission. The end of the cable successfully powered a double-door refrigerator full of Sinkiang (Xinjiang) Beer for 24 hours in an expansive, uninhabited desert.The 100-kilometer cable, the transformers, and the refrigerator were later sent back to Beijing, where the cable was cut into precise 1.86-meter sections, a measurement strictly based on the height of the refrigerator.The implementation of the projectrequired immense human, material, and financial resources.For him, installing that long cable, interacting with the Uighur family, finding funding for the project, and passing the strict government inspections became ways for him toactively participate and intervene in society.
Suit stemmed from a trip to Lane Crawford in Beijing to buy a Dolce&Gabbana suit priced at nearly 100,000 RMB, just before Zhao Zhao’s family traveled to the United States. This luxury garment sparked a difference of opinion between him and his parents. On seeing the suit, Zhao Zhao’s father was surprised that an item of clothing could have such a hefty price tag, and Zhao Zhao’s mother thought that she could make an identical suit for 3,000 RMB. Zhao Zhao realized that this suit had inspired three different viewpoints, and was interested to see how the situation would develop. He bought the suit, which angered his father to the point of storming off. After Zhao Zhao returned home, he had his father write an essay about his views; his father wrote a near 10,000-word piece titled “Beginning with a Suit”. Zhao Zhao also gave his mother 3,000 renminbi to buy the materials to copy a new suit. Through this essay and these two suits, the opinions of three family members are vividly represented –revealing the reasons behind their differences of opinion, their standards for measuring value, and their relationships to the rest of society.
Yengisar knives are named after their place of origin: Yengisar County in the west of the Tarim Basin. The practices related to their production are 400 years old. For nomads, these knives are important tools and ornamental objects; they are also symbols of the ability to resist threatas well as an instrument of self-protection. Now, these traditional knives are gradually becoming lost in history and memory. Since 2009, Zhao Zhao has collected the Yengisar knives that have been used by the people of Xinjiang. In the last seven years, he has collected 1,000 knives from individuals and families. Zhao Zhao also shot a documentary that records the people he met and the events that took place as he collected these objects. In this exhibition, he brings together these once-private objects and presents them publicly in Knife.
In his essay for the exhibition “So Far Away, Yet So Close” curator Cui Cancan wrote, “In September 2016, Knife, Suit, and Project Taklamakan will be presented as an integrated whole. In a sense, these pieces represent Zhao Zhao’s constraints and struggles, self-torment and disputes, industry intervention and ceaseless advancement over the last ten years. In this time, he has put out a record, edited a catalog, designed spaces, and filmed documentaries. In another sense, this exhibition reflects control and freedom, luck and seriousness. Now in his thirties, an appropriate time, and a breaking point; the countless moments of Zhao Zhao’s past have set up a new structure.”
Since returning to Xinjiang, Zhao Zhao engaged with issues that could not be addressed within the Beijing art system, thereby ending his consumption by that system. Because he has matched wits with society and himself, the experiments he created are bold and fresh. These works magnify the power of the actions and practices that created them; for him, the importance of what you do and how you do it transcends texts and concepts. Zhao Zhao believes, “This exhibition is a true announcement, but it is also a test of what I wanted to do within the system and a test of how I wanted to live; these things had to be concrete and visible.”