Shock Art


Shock Art
Artistic trend
Sensationalism, or Shock Art, appeared in embryo form as an alienated mutation of body art, in the first performances by Zhang Huan held at the Yuanming Yuan artist community since 1993. Zhang used his own body to inflict and signify pain, as in 65 Kg of June 1994. This kind of extreme art, which broke out in the second half of the 1990s, aimed at subverting the audience’s notions of art and standards of morality by exploring the material borders of the horrific. Artists began to use the corpses of human adults and infants, specimens and dead animals as their main vehicle of expression, using pain and the viewing of disturbing body parts as a media with which to ‘cause sensation by creating paralysis’ (Berghius).
Shock Art reached something of a group-specific consensus with the underground show ‘Post-Sense Sensibility: Alien Bodies and Delusion’, organized by curator Wu Meichun and artist Qiu Zhijie in Beijing in 1999, and then with a fringe exhibition organized at the margins of the Shanghai Biennale entitled ‘Fuck Off in 2000. Works of Shock Art were later presented in a documentary for the 5th Lyon Biennale and broadcast on BBC 4 in a much-discussed report, entitled Swinging Beijing, on 29 December 2002. Among the most shocking works were those by artist-duo Sun Yuan and Peng Yu, often using foetuses, as in Siamese Twins (2000), in which they transfused their own blood into the fused corpses of two babies, or as in Oil of the Human Being (2000) in which Peng Yu incubated a deceased child’s body with the same oil used to drain off the blood of corpses in a morgue. Zhu Yu’s Pocket Theology (1999) showed a human arm, hung from a hook in the centre of the exhibition hall, holding a rope that ran down to cover the entire floor. For Skin Graft (2000), Zhu sewed a piece of his own flesh onto the body of a dead pig. Xiao Yu used lab specimens of a premature baby, mice, ducks and rabbits to make up animal aberrations as in the three-piece series Ruan (1999), Wu (2000) and Jiu (2000), where he addresses the issues of contemporary clone-inflated environment and technological culture. Among other artists that adopt the same trend, albeit in a less provocative yet still disturbing fashion are: Gu Dexin, who used pigs’ hearts and brains in his installations of 1996 and 1998, Zhang Hanzi, Qin Ga, Jin Feng (‘Unusual & Usual’, Yuangong Modern Art Museum, Shanghai, 2000) and Feng Weidong.
(2001). Bu hezuo fangshi [Uncooperative Method] (exhibition catalogue).
Shanghai: Eastlink Gallery.
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Dao, Zi (2001). The Confusion of the Body’. Chinese-art.com Online Magazine 4.5.
Erickson, Britta (2001). ‘From the Edge of Beyond: Artists Probe the Mundane and the Horrific’. Chinese-art.com Online Magazine 4.3.
Liao, Wen (2001). ‘Racing through Forbidden Territory: “Sex” in the Works of China’s Female Artists’. Chinese-art.com Online Magazine 4.3.
Qiu, Zhijie and Wu, Meichun (1999). Post-Sense Sensibility: Alien Bodies and Delusion (exhibitioncatalogue).Beijing: Shaoyaoju.
Yi, Ying (2001). ‘Mundane and Profound’. Chinese-art.com Online Magazine 4.3.
BEATRICE LEANZA

Encyclopedia of contemporary Chinese culture. . 2011.

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