Zhang Huan To Add One Meter to an Anonymous Mountain
Medium Silver print
Mount di-bond mounted and framed
Photo Date 1995 Print Date 2006
Dimensions 40 x 60 in. (1016 x 1524 mm)
Photo Country China
Photographer Country China
Contact Alex Novak and Marthe Smith
About This Image
Signed and editioned AP 3/5 on label on back of photograph. Framed in heavy duty 48 x 67-1/2 in. contemporary white-washed frame with spacers and UV plexiglas. Mounted on di-bond.
Zhang Huan, who has often documented his performance art with photography, is one of the most important modern Chinese artists. Born in Henan in 1965 and affiliated with the group of Bejing East Village artists who became known for their performance art in the 1990s, Huan's first work took as its central theme an inquiry of his own body. The spectacular quality of his early performances secured his notoriety. In one instance, he coated his body with fish oil and honey and sat naked on a public toilet to attract flies. In another, he lay on a block of ice, his body heat melting the ice and leaving an impression of his form on the surface.
This young artist had to initially flee China in 1998, coming to the U.S., but has now been invited to return by the Chinese government. This image of five stacked nude bodies is considered to be his signature piece. His work is in the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Rose Art Museum, among many others.
In order to realize the piece To Add One Meter to an Anonymous Mountain, Zhang Huan and I (Kong Bu from "Zhang Huan: Altered States") surveyed the suburbs west of Beijing before finally deciding on the peak of Miaofengshan Mountain in the Mentougou District as the site for the work. Other artists from the Beijing East Village were invited to participate, but it was Zhang Huan who explained the proposal and set the time for the work. We hired two surveyors and equipment from the land bureau and arranged for photographers and film cameras from a movie studio.
At 13:00 on May 11, 1995, only the occasional truck along the highway disturbed the calm atop the mountain. Surveyors Jin Kui and Xiong Wen stood on the road below where they set up their equipment. They measured the mountain's height at 86.393 meters. I was in charge of recording each participant's weight: Wang Shihua, 80kg; Cang Xin, 70kg; Gao Yang, 68kg; Zu Zhou, 65kg; Ma Zhongren, 65kg; Zhang Huan, 65kg; Ma Liuming, 55kg; Zhang Binbin (female), 55kg; Duan Yingmei (female), 55kg; Zhu Ming, 46kg. Everyone climbed the mountain, and one by one the artists shed their clothes. The participants divided into four rows by ascending weight and then lay on top of each other in the form of a pyramid. Between 13:26 and 13:38 that afternoon, the surveyors' measurement of the anonymous mountain was 87.393 meters, precisely one meter higher than Miaofengshan Mountain. A breeze suddenly blew across the mountaintop. Looking back on that work today, it seems that the meter that Zhang Huan added to create that anonymous mountain far transcends its initial significance, because with it he added a layer of deep cultural significance. At that time I believed this ideal of "adding height" would persist over time. The works of this period were extremely masochistic, showing the young Zhang Huan's abnormally excited posture and a wisdom and romanticism hinted at by his extreme bodily language.
See: Minglau, Gao, The Wall: Reshaping Contemporary Chinese Art (Albright-Knox Art Gallery, University at Buffalo Art Galleries, and the Millenium Art Museum, Beijing, p. 178; for color versions see: Yilmaz Dziewior, ed. Zhang Huan, Hatje Cantz, Kunstverei in Hamburg, Germany, 2003, p.53 and Supenow: Art of the 1990s from the Logan Collection (SFMoMA), no.47-48, pp.106-107.
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