A brief comment for Jiang Zhi’s Art


By: Claudia Albertini

 One of China’s most important video artists, winner of the Chinese Contemporary Art Award from the Chinese Contemporary Art Association in 2000, Jiang Zhi reflects on various aspects of modern China’s turbulent society, from the estrangement of individual existence to the hectic pace of our social lives.

 In an early video, Fly, Fly (1997), he films a hand mimicking the flapping wings of a bird in a cramped city apartment.  Confined in a small room, one feels subjugated to the self and to everything around; at the same time, one experiences tranquility, fantasies, boredom, and passion—all ways of transcending reality and escaping, just like flying.  “Can we shake off heaviness for lightness?” asks the artist.  “In which direction we shall choose to fly?”  In Jiang’s work, reality often mingles with dreams.  In Things Would Turn Simpler Once They Happened (2006), people whose lives seem to be directed by external forces are waiting to be rescued from the humdrum repetition of the everyday.  “In this age of changes, people expect something to happen, something that throws light on them like a spotlight.  Everything then will become simpler,” Jiang says.

 Things Would Turn Nails Once They Happened (2007) shows the stunning image of an old house surrounded by new development, a symbol of the atrocious consequences of destruction and reconstruction.  Dingzi hu in Chinese means “nail house,” and is popular parlance for those households determined to resist displacement directives.  This work captures a real house, whose owners are trying to resist the momentum of modernization.  The video installation Onward! Onward! Onward! (2006) depicts Chinese leaders Mao Zedong, Deng Xiaoping, and Jiang Zemin, running, one after the other.  Their action of endless moving depicts faith in progress, summed up in the popular slogan, “ As long as we are running we are always advancing,” while emphasizing that the concept of fate is deeply rooted in this society.  The installation I Am Your Poetry (2006-2007) marks a new stage in the artist’s development: comparing the works that make up this series to the verses of a poem, Jiang explores the theme of skin—a layer, a container in which our essence lies, which mutates with the passing of time.  Skin represents something passing, changing, and fading away.