Repetition as Art:Zhao Zhao Takes Action
City: Hong Kong
Curator: Charles Merewether
Duration: 2018-09-13 ~ 2018-10-28
Opening: 12.9.2018 6 – 8pm
Venue: Osage Hong Kong
Address: 4/F, 20 Hing Yip Street, Kwun Tong, Kowloon, Hong Kong
Participating Artist(s): Zhao Zhao
Host(s): Osage Gallery

Over time, Zhao Zhao has used repetition as a central concept and means of retaining reference to

the original subject in the making of distinct works of art across a range of media.

The action of repetition can be understood as integral to the operational structure of the daily economy of life. More specifically, the processes of recycling, re-presentation and assemblage characterize its functioning. Repetition is also a significant aspect of contemporary art. As distinct from the idea of an original creation as with modernist art, this aspect of contemporary art is a practice whose concept and materiality are based on using directly what already exists around us. More than that, we might say it represents the action of an individual artist or artistic group to intervene and respond to a social reality greater than themselves.

The work of Zhao Zhao belongs to this approach, drawing upon what is given but, remains hidden in the course of daily life. His work brings to the attention of audiences something overlooked or unseen,a detail and or an action, imperceptible or hidden from view or, perhaps at the limits of the norm of what is acceptable to be represented.

The major work of this exhibition of Zhao Zhao at Osage is a major work “Building Blocks” from 2014.Composed of mixed media, principally wood and metal, the installation of this piece varies according to the size of the available space. The work consists of over sixty various oddly shaped, large-scale woodblocks that are then installed as two or three blocks, grouped together as 24 modules. The source of these woodblocks is from a furniture factory that closed down in 2013. Zhao Zhao had heard that the then famous factory was about to close down, so he lobbied for the acquisition of all their equipment and molds. The molds had been used to produce what was called “rare, solid wood” and then branded as imported furniture. Consisting of 500 types of tools that took up 300 square meters,the equipment that forms the negatives of such luxury furniture had reached the end of their designated use. Together with 20 craftsmen, Zhao Zhao sanded, polished and waxed these pieces of equipment by hand to give them a new life by 2014.

The second work is “Again” (2012/2013), a cube of blocks of stone cut from a desecrated Buddha sculpture. Zhao Zhao had bought the sculpture from a market. They were often found in markets,after having been semi-destroyed by looters, with their heads, hands or feet cut off, with the remaining part sold off. Zhao Zhao reconstituted these fragmentary pieces as a block and new work of art. It became the embodiment of a history of the destruction of the original sacred objects and a disappearing China. Together with this constructed cube, the artist also made a series of digital prints of the process of making the work.

“Slap” (2013) is one of a four-part series of performative actions, documented as inkjet prints, made in 2013 - 2014. The work shows the artist slapping a volunteer, Zhao Haixing, on the left and right cheek. The other three works are ‘Crush’, ‘Leather Shoes’ and ‘Family’ each of which were documented as an inkjet print and a video of the action. Through setting up these exchanges, Zhao Zhao creates acts of transgression that, in turn, makes himself and the participants vulnerable and open. It is in these abrupt social contexts that irreplaceable bonds are formed between the artist and the participants of the performance. As witness to these relationships, the work captures and perpetuates a performative and ephemeral social gesture as a work of art, probing the limits in the fabric of social relations.

The most recent works in the exhibition are the videos “Desert Camel” and “In Extremis”. The first,and one of four works produced in his home region, involves Zhao Zhao bringing a camel to include in an exhibition in Beijing. He then documented the camel in situ on video. In a more poignant manner to that of his earlier work in this exhibition, the action of repetition is performed to emphasize the original and therefore the change. The camel is now an object of contemplation, curiosity or wonder,divorced from its daily life, no longer an animal of the desert nor even a carrier of man and his cargo. The video shows the estrangement of both the animal and its human observers who appear at a loss to connect in any way.

The exhibition ends with Zhao Zhao’s one hour film “In Extremis”. As Cui Cancan for Tang Contemporary in Beijing remarked “Over two weeks, Zhao Zhao interviewed more than one hundred different visitors to the exhibition, including curators, artists, scholars, music producers, writers,students, and retired cadres. They described their understanding of “in extremis” (a Latin phrase meaning “in extreme circumstances,” or “at the point of death”).” Zhao Zhao then compiled these interviews together to show their shared anxiety between the individual and society. Cancan continues: “These interviews vividly reflect the various conflicts and difficulties that arise between individual consciousness and collective society, the anxiety that seems universal today, or the sense of isolation that belongs to just one person.”


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[Editor] 张艳