Critics’ Picks

Zhang Ding, Buddha Jumps over the Wall, 2012, still from a color video, 2 minutes.


Zhang Ding

ShanghART Gallery | 香格纳画廊
50 Moganshan Rd., Bldg 16 and 18
June 2 - July 15

“Buddha Jumps over the Wall” is one of those legendarily impossible Cantonese dishes, taking hours or even days to concoct, and a veritable nightmare for vegans, consisting as it does of an avalanche of meat and fish ingredients, which vary slightly according to individual recipes. The meal takes its name from an apocryphal tale about a Buddhist monk who couldn’t resist the savory smell emitted from his next door neighbor’s crockery, and jumped right over the wall to demand a taste, momentarily abandoning his vegetarianism.

Zhang Ding’s version of the soup consists of duck, pig, turtle, fish, goat, and chicken, which are represented by white plaster casts in a video projected in the front of the gallery. Each animal is assassinated by a handgun-wielding silver cast of a butcher, which also appears in the gallery, spotlit in front of the video projection. The animals on-screen explode, spurting a sea of blood: just like your favorite Hollywood action movie! The next room is the banquet hall. On the opening night of the exhibition, a real chef was on site cooking up the dish and spooning out servings to the lucky guests—or at least the carnivores among them—while an orchestra played in the center of the room. In another corner, the remnants of blasted animals have been put on display, all white and red—far less gory than the real thing. The back of the hall is decorated with a red carpet and kitsch paintings of naked women—the type of decor you might find in a restaurant in China with the pretensions of catering to the newly emergent middle and upper classes.

The exhibition seems like a sensible enough sequel to “Opening,” Zhang’s 2011 show at ShanghArt, in which he confused the art-trolling public by transforming the gallery into a tacky nightclub, complete with red lights and go-go dancers. China is very much into its own version of the society of the spectacle, but it’s only artists like Zhang who seem to notice—and are sophisticated enough to poke fun at it.