Wang Jianwei

Zendai Museum of Modern Art | 证大现代艺术馆

It is unsurprising that Wang Jianwei’s epic solo show at Zendai moma, “Hostage,” was inspired by a reading of the works of Pierre Bourdieu. Like Bourdieu, whose “theory of practice” was grounded in empirical data, Wang might also be considered a cultural sociologist of sorts, basing his theories and art on firsthand study. In his 1995 film Production, Wang’s fly-on-the-wall observations of the flow of information among the patrons of a traditional Sichuan teahouse could be read as an endeavor more ethnographic than artistic. The same could be said of Living Elsewhere, Wang’s 1998 video documenting the lives of migrant workers as they squatted in the concrete shells of Western-style villas—a construction project gone bankrupt—on the outskirts of Chengdu. In his latest solo show, based loosely on his communal farming experience during the Cultural Revolution, the artist posed the question:

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