Humorous Art - Yang Zhenzhong’s Artistic Work, by Zhang Qing 2003

Two art styles have emerged in China since the early 1 990s.0ne is supported by a new generation of artists who,opposed to idealism,instead paint the trivialities of ordinary life or their actual living condition on canvas.Their aim is to mock revolutionary and realistic subjects while replacing the original historical symbol and hero by worms in society.

Another style is called political pop.The artists in this genre deride politics via a political mode,thus offering to the group of people who have been ruled by politics an opportunity to scorn and fiddle with politics.Political pop not only reveals the economic and political conditions in China during its period of transformation, but also shows the popular psychological movement among Chinese people.

Yang Zhenzhong is one of the artists who rose to fame in the mid 1990s.He and his colleagues are filled with a fusion of rebellious and sarcastic characteristics.Compared to the new generation and political pop, they are more revolutionary. Rather than directly answering existing questions of Chinese art via any particular art form or language, they prefer instead to choose a freer, more open and more tolerant attitude which has put them into the limelight on stage of international art. Their success is not only due to their insight,but can also be credited to the good timing of these Chinese artists. Yang Zhenzhong is a video and photographic artist.Early in 1995, his series of photographic works entitled “Lucky Family” won him fame.His metaphor of Linking cock,hen,and chicken to describe traditional marriage and the formation of a Chinese family is undoubtedly a dramatic allusion to the problems among Chinese families. “922 Rice Corns” created in 2000,is another piece of work that distinguishes the artist’s individual style.He talks about the relationship between number and time via a distant and rhythmically paced language.It seems that Yana prefers to use a light mode of expression to deal with a serious subject.One of his works (”I will die“) invited people from different countries, nations, ages and identities to say the same sentence: “I will die”. The different manners, expressions and melodies with which the people spoke these words profoundly reflected their dissimilar attitudes towards death,an existential fact which is seldom faced and frequently overlooked in a fast-paced economy.Enthralled by a fully occupied daily schedule, we tend to forget the essential nature of life and death.If, however, we are allowed to enter a time tunnel of “The Matrix”,I believe that many of us would share an entirely different view of life and death.Speaking to precisely this point.Yang’s “I will die” strikes a stunning and direct blow at all those who thought that the end of their life’s road was still far away.Yang’s “Let’s puff“, showcased at the Shanghai Biennale 2002, is his milestone work and embodies a great leap forward in his art career.The girl’s puffing, as well as the movements of the street scene along Nanjing Road,are glimpses of the changes that the city has undergone during the past century.His “Light as Fuck” mocks the funny problems in a modern city through a humorous tune,which swiftly combines a critical view under the guise of a light and amusing pose.

Yang’s latest work, “Spring Story,” invited nearly 1,500 Siemens staff members to recite the Deng Xiaoping’s “Southern Campaign Speech”. The artist referred to the salient trait of the process along the production line, i.e. the absurdity of different components assembled by different staff members in a way reminiscent of Chaplin in his film “Modern Times”. On the one hand, the cutting and overlapping of one sentence superficially sounds like a fragmentary sentence; but on the other hand, it is actually a complete sentence.This shows the difficulty that China has gone through during its transformational period.Fortunately, however, the country is still in the springtime of its collective year.Another particularity of the work is the participation of the Siemens staff members.Thanks to his outstanding directing,Yang made every staff member a star in front of his camera and enabled each person to more clearly understand the relationship between art and technology.Through his work,Yang presented us with some of the country’s springtime scenes:the booming progress in a joint venture factory, and the springtime of art which Yang himself has so ably demonstrated.

Zhang Qing, curator and art critic, Shanghai, dawn of November 21. 2003