Qing Zhang

  • Cao Fei, Nova, 2019, HD video, color, sound, 109 minutes 53 seconds.

    Cao Fei

    Recently asked what the world would look like in 2050, Cao Fei answered: “A democratic China presides over its global hegemony, as flights from New York to Beijing take thirty-nine minutes. Aliens have made first and friendly contact. I gladly sign a confidential agreement to participate in Hans Ulrich Obrist’s last project, which will send my remains to Mars.” Despite the Mars flight and aliens, this vision is hardly science fiction. In fact, Cao is putting a Chinese spin on a well-worn formula, one where state power cloaks itself in the language of democracy: the Washington Consensus.

    In what

  • Entrance of 798 Art Center.
    diary June 02, 2020

    Say Anything

    MY FAVORITE WORK OF ART so far this year was made by anonymous Chinese netizens: They took the transcript of a 404’d interview with the nation’s earliest Covid-19 whistleblower and reuploaded it on WeChat in various “useless” codes, including HEX, emoji, oracle bone script, and one of J. R. R. Tolkien’s invented languages, Sindarin. Their ideal audience, one imagines, was the censors themselves.

    At the Timezone 8 Café in the 798 Art District on May 22, the first day of Gallery Weekend Beijing, I briefly sat in on a meal with curator Zhang Hanlu, artist Wang Tuo, and critic Yang Beichen, who were

  • Yu Guo, Rock and Cliff: The Geological Surface of Horn Town, 2019, video, color, sound, 47 minutes 20 seconds. From “A Geography of Resistance.”

    “A Geography of Resistance”

    After Bob Dylan won the Nobel Prize for Literature, the critic David Orr remarked that Dylan might be great, but he doesn’t write poems. The recent video-art exhibition “A Geography of Resistance” might invite a similar charge; that while its intention—to cry out for China’s dispossessed—was good, it failed as art. Take the first work on display, Lo Lai Lai Natalie’s The Days Before Silent Spring—Prelude, 2010–19, a documentary about the artist’s decade-long efforts operate a farm in Hong Kong’s New Territories. The curator, Li Jia, argues that Lo’s endeavor recalls earlier, indigenous forms of

  • Tong Wenmin, Branch, 2019, 4K video, color, sound, 53 minutes 8 seconds.

    Tong Wenmin

    “One of the striking things about places heavily contaminated by radioactive nuclides,” according to James Lovelock, the scientist and Futurist best known for proposing the so-called Gaia hypothesis, according to which the earth is a self-regulating system, “is the richness of their wildlife.” When environmentalists were still bemoaning the “despoiling” of the earth, Lovelock recognized that life flourishes because of—not despite—catastrophe.

    For her exhibition “Emerald,” Tong Wenmin presented videos documenting a group of durational performances that are founded on this Lovelockian insight. In