Critics’ Picks

View of “Tianzhuo Chen,” 2015.

View of “Tianzhuo Chen,” 2015.


Tianzhuo Chen

Palais de Tokyo
13, Avenue du Président Wilson
June 24–September 13, 2015

Here is a shrine to decadence that beckons to every spirit devoted to a life of carnal pleasures: bongs, helmets, marijuana-leaf-shaped neon, and flags sporting penises along with the phrase “Jerk Off in Peace” come across as the manifesto for a new world where debauchery is the new religion. For what is far from a conventional exhibition, Tianzhuo Chen has created a nebulous display of installations that purposefully overplay their shock factor while hinging on tackiness. It is almost as though one has arrived late to a deserted underground party, events from which are played on one of the many screens here including a video titled ADAHA 2 (all works cited, 2015). In fact, the video is a recording of a performance from the opening and shows devil-like creatures taking over the gallery space, in what seems to be a sacrifice ritual, proclaiming: “Offer to god the evil decaying body, offer to god the pure devout soul.”

The cataclysmic mixture of Tibetan Buddhism and a kitschy grotesque that whisks in allusions to voguing is best exemplified by the dancing figures in the video 19:53. The bling of the gold-plated sculpture Mayhem subverts the concept of the third eye, symbolic of foresight, and the dissolution of boundaries between the spiritual and material worlds. While the abundance of vertiginous videos throughout the space is reminiscent of such places as Times Square, where the senses are continuously titillated by screens demanding consumption to the point of nausea, the underlying message here is one of reverence for a dystopia that is also the foundation for a new mythology. Welcome to hell.