Zhang Peili 張 培力

Zhang Peili. Still from 30×30, 1988.
Collection of the artist, Hangzhou.

Record. Repeat.

Considered the first Chinese artist to work in video, Zhang Peili (born 1957) is a pioneering figure in the history of contemporary art. Zhang’s distinctive videos focus on the repetition of actions—breaking a mirror, reading, washing, looking out the window, and dancing—that are familiar yet rendered disorienting through Zhang’s use of perspective, close-ups, and framing. Although the cumulative meaning of these routine actions seems elusive at first, his works often raise questions of power and subversion. Emerging from his critique of systems of representation and art making in his early paintings and conceptual artworks, his videos upset our understanding of the roles of art and entertainment in contemporary life. Writing in 1989, on the cusp of his transition to working exclusively in video, Zhang observed, “People never ask what in this world is not subject to constraints in some way (no one doubts the legitimacy of such constraints). Why is art an exception? Is art doomed to provide only entertainment?”

— in Art Institute of Chicago, on the occasion of Zhang Peili’s exhibition that took place between March 30 and July 9, 2017 (read more)


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