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Related rhythms: Situating Zhang Peili and contemporary Chinese video art in the globalizing art world

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Abstract Despite being considered the first video artist to work in China, the majority of Zhang Peili’s earliest video works were originally exhibited abroad. In many of these exhibitions, his videos were displayed in different installation formats and configurations. One of the most evident of these changes occurred at the travelling exhibition China Avant-Garde. In Berlin, the opening venue of the exhibition, two videos were displayed in ways that differed from their original presentations; Document on Hygiene No. 3 (1991) and Assignment No. 1 (1992) were presented as singlechannel videos on single monitors instead of the multiple monitor installations previously used to show the works in Shanghai and Paris, respectively. Water: Standard Version from the Cihai Dictionary (1991) premiered in Berlin as a single-channel, single-monitor work. However, when it was installed in the exhibition’s Rotterdam venue, the work was shown on a nine-monitor grid. This article explores what caused the flexibility in the display of Zhang Peili’s early videos. I argue that these transformations demonstrate Zhang Peili’s conceptualization of video as a medium for art and his navigation of the rapidly globalizing art world. While the initial examples of this flexibility in installation were often caused by miscommunications with international curators, later exhibitions provided a regular venue for Zhang Peili to develop his approach to the ‘scene’ (chang) and ‘content’ (neirong) of video installation. Furthermore, as one of the most active Chinese artists working and exhibiting abroad in the 1990s, Zhang Peili was placed within the middle of domestic and international debates about the globalization of contemporary Chinese art. He responded to these debates by expelling signifiers of national identity in his videos and by forcefully deriding these discussions as a form of nationalism. Considering his video work from the perspective of its international presentation provides an important example of how artists working in China situated themselves in relationship to global art production in the 1980s and 1990s.
Title: Related rhythms: Situating Zhang Peili and contemporary Chinese video art in the globalizing art world
Description:
Abstract Despite being considered the first video artist to work in China, the majority of Zhang Peili’s earliest video works were originally exhibited abroad.
In many of these exhibitions, his videos were displayed in different installation formats and configurations.
One of the most evident of these changes occurred at the travelling exhibition China Avant-Garde.
In Berlin, the opening venue of the exhibition, two videos were displayed in ways that differed from their original presentations; Document on Hygiene No.
3 (1991) and Assignment No.
1 (1992) were presented as singlechannel videos on single monitors instead of the multiple monitor installations previously used to show the works in Shanghai and Paris, respectively.
Water: Standard Version from the Cihai Dictionary (1991) premiered in Berlin as a single-channel, single-monitor work.
However, when it was installed in the exhibition’s Rotterdam venue, the work was shown on a nine-monitor grid.
This article explores what caused the flexibility in the display of Zhang Peili’s early videos.
I argue that these transformations demonstrate Zhang Peili’s conceptualization of video as a medium for art and his navigation of the rapidly globalizing art world.
While the initial examples of this flexibility in installation were often caused by miscommunications with international curators, later exhibitions provided a regular venue for Zhang Peili to develop his approach to the ‘scene’ (chang) and ‘content’ (neirong) of video installation.
Furthermore, as one of the most active Chinese artists working and exhibiting abroad in the 1990s, Zhang Peili was placed within the middle of domestic and international debates about the globalization of contemporary Chinese art.
He responded to these debates by expelling signifiers of national identity in his videos and by forcefully deriding these discussions as a form of nationalism.
Considering his video work from the perspective of its international presentation provides an important example of how artists working in China situated themselves in relationship to global art production in the 1980s and 1990s.

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