Through MadeIn Company, leading Chinese conceptual artist Xu Zhen is exploring, expanding and subverting what it means to create art.
In a video interview produced by French fashion house ZILLI, Xu Zhen discusses MadeIn Company, a Shanghai-based “multifunctional art company” that he founded in 2006. MadeIn blurs the lines between creation, curation and consumption, commenting on the general public’s preconceptions about identity, history and art.
The video was produced in September 2013 to mark ZILLI’s sponsorship of Xu Zhen’s MadeIn Company at the 12th Biennale de Lyon. Click here to watch the full video interview on the ZILLI website.
For Xu Zhen, who is a successful, prominent artist in his own right, it was a natural progression to create a company with his fellow artists in order to expand upon what they could produce as individuals. As he states in the video interview,
We’d already been working together as a group on all sorts of activities – including planning various art-world events and lots of us working together in my own studio – so that year we thought perhaps we could create a brand under which we could do all these sort of things – working for contemporary art; creative work including group work, planning and research.
While the name MadeIn alludes to the concept of “Made In China,” Xu Zhen explains that “a more important meaning is of there being no limiting end or ceiling to what they can produce as a collective.
MadeIn Company is perhaps best known for its first exhibitions “Seeing One’s Own Eyes” and “Lonely Miracle,” both of which were held in 2009. MadeIn produced a series of works for these exhibitions that they claimed were made by “a new generation” of anonymous Middle Eastern artists. Aiming to expose and challenge cultural perceptions, MadeIn used a variety of clichéd symbols to comply with what the public might expect from contemporary Middle Eastern art.
Much of the artwork produced by MadeIn is perpetually developing. Originating from a 2011 work, The Physique of Consciousness Museum has evolved into the “first museum dedicated to human thinking, action and body language,” MadeIn says in an artist statement on the artwork. With the aim of “continuously produc[ing] creativity,” MadeIn uses a wide range of media in its productions including painting, sculpture, mechanical installation, video, performance and photography.
As Xu explains in the ZILLI video interview, The Physique of Consciousness Museum “treats the connection between the human mind, body and spirit from wholly new angles and in wholly new ways.” The series is focused on researching and linking the different meanings and origins of movements from seemingly disparate cultures.
The museum includes more than a hundred different human movements and postures that are represented using different mediums including video, performance, sculpture, paintings, fixed images and arrangements of texts, sounds and objects. As MadeIn says in the same artist statement, the series explores the “nature and source of our ideologies by creating parallels between our social, religious and political beliefs.”
Movement Field, the other artwork by MadeIn that was included in the 12th Biennale of Lyon 2013, is part of another developing series of works. This version of Movement Field was designed in collaboration with an artist from France and “represents the first stage of a long-term project aiming to create a genuine worldwide community,” ZILLI explains on their website.
In Movement Field, MadeIn combines the concept of a seemingly peaceful Zen garden with the “intense expression of all the discontent in the world,” as ZILLI states on their website. Like Physique of Consciousness Museum, Movement Field also uses historical events and symbols to highlight cultural crossovers; in this case, they map the world of demonstrations and protest marching.
More on Xu Zhen and MadeIn Company
Xu Zhen was born in 1977 and lives and works in Shanghai. Since participating in the 49th Venice Biennale in 2001, he has exhibited widely both as an individual and through MadeIn Company.
The company was founded in 2009 in Shanghai by Xu Zhen. In 2013, the Chinese art collective launched the brand Xu Zhen.
Selected exhibitions and events that included work by MadeIn are:
- “Movement Field – Xu Zhen Solo Exhibition, produced by MadeIn Company”, Long March Space, Beijing, China (2013)
- The 1st Kiev Biennale (2012)
- The Unseen – The 4th Guangzhou Triennial (2012)
- The 7th Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art Australia (2012)
In March 2014, the Armory Show in New York City held an exhibition of work by Xu Zhen and a retrospective of the artist that includes some artworks by MadeIn was on at the UCCA in Beijing until 20 April 2014.
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- The top online resources for Chinese contemporary art – curator Rachel Marsden’s tips – January 2014 – What are the best sources of information on China’s complex, vibrant contemporary culture?
- Chinese art collectives provide “ultimate freedom” – 3 artist groups profiled – September 2012 – Does collective art practice allow young Chinese artists to push the boundaries of experimental art?
- New works by Xu Zhen’s MadeIn Company all about action – December 2011 – since their first solo in 2009, MadeIn has been using “action” and “behaviour” as a method and concept
- Xu Zhen takes on Middle Eastern identities and cultures as the new artists’ collective alias Madeln at the Ikon Gallery, UK – June 2010 – MadeIn are often heralded as one of the most important conceptual artists to have emerged from China since the 1990s
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