1 1988

1. The Street (destroyed), 1988, plaster.

2. Old Lady, 1988, plaster.

My graduation work The Street (left) captures the moment three strangers meet by chance. Their faces look pained and dull, their movements ungainly; they look awkward and lost. Old Lady (right) was the first portrait sculpture I created after graduation. It defies the muscular and round shapes displayed by traditional sculptures, and experiments with using shrunken and sunken surfaces.

2 1989

Black Bird (lost), 1989, iron.

Black Bird was created for the National Art Exhibition in April 1989. It shows a burned black bird reduced to a skeleton with featherless wings, inspired by an image of natural ore. Here, I transitioned from sculpting sunken surfaces to sculpting mere bones. Perhaps because it was late in 1989 by the time this work was submitted, it was not selected for the Exhibition.

3 1990

Underground, 1990, clay, wire, 16 × 16 × 16 cm × 2.

This work represents an imagined underground world hidden beneath a city. Imagine that a chunk of earth is dug up from underground; it probably contains many crisscrossing sections of pipeline and even some fossils. For future generations, this would be an archaeological cross section. In short, future humans will learn about our world as it exists today from this cross section of an underground world. (This project was turned away from a public art exhibition in a park hosted by the Beijing government in 1990)

4 1990-1993

1. Sitting Girl, 1990, colored resin.

2. Losing Balance, 1992, colored resin.

3. Combination of works.

This series of painted sculptures was created between 1990 and 1993. The production method consisted of making a plaster figure, putting clothes on it, painting over it to harden the surface, and then molding it as a whole. This series captures different moments in life. Through the figures’ body movements and facial expressions, these works imply the impact that changing environments have on the human spirit.

5 1992-1993

1. Man Wearing Mao Suit, 1992, acrylic on resin, life size.

2. Clay draft, 1992.

3. Clay draft of Headless Crowd, 1993.

4. Clay draft of Mao Suit, 1993.

5. Sketch of Mao Suit, 1992–1993.

It is a long process to conceive the series of Mao Suit. Starting from a realistic figure, I later came up with distorted sketches and clay draft; the idea of tinfoil-covered head was replaced by a headless crowd. The form of the sculpture has undergone various stages of transformation.

6 1994

1. Installation view of Mao Suit series, 1994 Beijing Coal-Mining Administrators College, Beijing.

2. Installation view of the solo exhibition Kong Ling Kong—Temptation series, 1994, Central Academy of Fine Art Gallery, Beijing.

In order to produce a Mao Suit sculpture, I first create a clay figure that displays a peculiar stance, suggesting movements. I then glue linen to the figure’s surface and allow it to harden, to form the clothing. The figure is then cut down to construct a bodily shell, and the clothes are re-added and fixed in place. The extraordinarily dynamic movements displayed by the clay figures, and the detailed fabrics they wear, have an effect that makes the hollow sculptures appear at once both realistic and illusory.

7 1994

94 Ruin Cleaning Project, 1994, action and installation, Wangfujing, Beijing.

At the beginning of 1994, through the investment of Hong Kong business magnate Li Ka-shing, Beijing began to demolish the busy streets that comprised the Wangfujing neighborhood. I remember there were artificial rocks abandoned among the garden rubble. On November 12, during the demolition of a Republic of China–era house, I created this work titled 94 Ruin Cleaning Project, marking my first experiment on using art to intervene in society. The house was razed to the ground that afternoon; the developer built the Grand Hyatt Beijing hotel and office complex in its place. The ironic thing is, this very complex later hosted a sculpture exhibition that included my stainless-steel work Artificial Rock.

8 1995

1. Madonna, 1995, work on paper, 43 × 112 × 4 cm.

2. Madonna hanging at home in Sanlitun, Beijing, 1995

3. Madonna hanging in Shunyi studio, Beijing, 2016.

In the early 1990s, I saw a folk artist painting colorful Chinese characters by using a bamboo board at a farmer’s market in Beijing’s Sanlitun neighborhood. This crude folk art reminded me of the popular American singer Madonna. I asked the folk artist to write down the three Chinese characters for “Madonna” and bought the calligraphy— which has hung in my study ever since, and journeys with me whenever I move studios, most recently to Shunyi.

9 1995

1. Sketch of Human Components Store, 1995.

2. Sketch of Ultimate Repair, 1995.

1: All parts sold in the Human Components Store come from my body. If a part of your body is malfunctioning, you can purchase said component here. If it doesn’t fit, you can fix it at a designated manufacturing unit, until the new part is properly installed. Replaceable components include fingers, chest, hands, feet, and reproductive system.

2: Repair a shaky wooden ladder until it’s full of reinforcements. Does the result of reinforcing the ladder turn a practical problem into an aesthetic or conceptual problem? What’s the standard method for reinforcement? At what point do you declare the ladder defunct? When should we stop repairing a broken workbench? If it continues to deteriorate, should we continue to repair it?

10 1995

Constant Temperature, 1995, electric heater and fan.

I used to live in an unheated dormitory at the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing’s Sanlitun neighborhood for nine years. Inspired by the electric heater used in the winter and the electric fan used in the summer, I placed the electric fan on top of the electric heater and turned both on at the same time, letting the cool air above and the warm air below interact to create a constant temperature. The coexistence of two contrasting forces helped balance the temperature.

11 1995

Bird Trap, 1995, wire net, a bird and books on birds, dimension variable.

Children growing up in a big compound like to catch birds with an iron basin, positioned at an optimal angle of 45 degrees. Here, research books about birds replace the millet bait, while a live bird stands in place of the trapper pulling the string. It suggests the paradox of knowledge: When someone picks up the books, it will startle away the bird holding the string, thus trapping the person who’d wanted to study the bird in the first place. This work was created to participate in the exhibition 45 Degrees as a Reason, initiated by artist Geng Jianyi.

12 1995

Property Development—Classroom Assignment, 1995, slogan on wall, cement bricks and clay, Sculpture Department ruins of Central Academy of Fine Arts, part of the Property Development project by the Three Men United Studio.

After the developer demolished the central blocks comprising the Wangfujing neighborhood, it moved on to raze the building of Central Academy of Fine Arts—also located in the heart of Wangfujing. This work was created before the Academy was relocated. Titled Property Development, it was also the first project organized by Three Men United Studio (a collective comprised of artists Sui Jianguo, Zhan Wang, and Yu Fan). In my work Classroom Assignment, the classroom becomes a site of sculpted bricks, and a wall slogan cheers on the new construction.

13 1995

Installation view of Women/Here, 1995, part of the second project by the Three Men United Studio.

The second exhibition organized by Three Men United Studio (Sui Jianguo, Zhan Wang, and Yu Fan) was Women/Here, on view at the short-lived Beijing Museum of Contemporary Art Affiliated with the China Central Academy of Fine Arts. All works displayed in the exhibition were either in the form of documentation or bulletin boards, while news about the World Conference on Women was broadcast. The centerpiece of the work was an image of Zhan Wang’s mother, who was invited to the opening.

14 1995

1. Ultimate Nature (lost), 1995, white marble, 45 × 35 × 35 cm.

2. Sketch of an outdoor work derived from Ultimate Nature, 1996.

I replicated an ordinary white marble using another white marble, thus producing two identical rocks. This work, now missing, has never been exhibited. This is the only remaining photo of the production site.

15 1995-

Artificial Rock No.1, 1995, stainless steel, 80 × 50 × 60 cm.

I began conceptualizing stainless-steel rocks while Beijing was about to launch its city modernization. The first specimens I chose to replicate were called “three-horned calabash” (San Jian Hu Lu Tou), collected from the Fangshan District of Beijing. There was nothing praiseworthy to the stone's commercial value. The phases of producing a stainless-steel Artificial Rock include choosing the stone, laying down the materials, making the rubbing images, soldering and polishing, finishing the material with the natural veins of the rock appear. In 1996, the first piece of Artificial Rock was included in the first auction of contemporary art in China, called Reality: Present and Future.

Today, real life lies hidden in fantasies beneath dazzling surface, in stones now made hollow.

—Zhan Wang, 1995

16 1995

1. Artificial Rock No.2, 1995, stainless steel, 175 × 120 × 90 cm, Art Museum of the Capital Normal University, Beijing.

2. Sketch of an artificial rock, 1994.

This is a public display in the exhibition Open Your Mouth, Close Your Eyes: Beijing-Berlin Art Exchange, supported by a common stainless-steel tripod in the center—the rock that was originally inside was crushed and placed on the ground around the piece. The picture to the right is my earliest sketch of an artificial rock.

17 1996

Artificial Rock No.4 (Imperial Garden), 1996, stainless steel, glass plinth, National Art Museum of China, Beijing.

In Artificial Rock No.4 (Imperial Garden), the back of the sculpture isn’t sealed off, so you can see the inside of the shell, obviously extending the vocabulary of Mao Suit Shells. This piece first participated in the Invitational Exhibition of Contemporary Art at the National Art Museum of China, which failed to officially open. In 1999, it was exhibited in Transience-Chinese Experimental Art at the End of the Twentieth Century and now is in the collection of the Smart Museum of Art at the University of Chicago.

18 1996

1. Rendering for the proposal of Artificial Rock in front of Beijing West Railway Station (rejected), 1996.

2. New Map of Beijing: Today’s and Tomorrow’s Capital—Rockery Remodeling Plan, 1996, map collages, 110 × 163 cm.

1. After polishing, stainless steel never rusts, satisfying our expectations for an ideal material.

2. After polishing, stainless steel reflects its surrounding colors, changing with the environment without having its own fixed pigment.

3. After polishing, the mirrored surface of polished stainless steel shows the changing textures and shapes of natural stones, while distorting and breaking any images reflected on it. It functions by bringing fantasies and hopes to people.

4. Stainless steel is significantly cheaper, compared to gold and silver. But since it contains traces of gold, it looks shiny and luxurious. Using this material one can “pay less for more.”

5. Stainless-steel artificial rocks are light and hollow; they can float in water and travel with its currents.

This is a remodeling plan based on the new map of Beijing. We searched for artificial rockery sites around Beijing and replaced them with stainless-steel rocks. On the right corner of the map, we’ve documented our interviews to locals about their opinions on natural landscapes.

Proposal of Artificial Rock—studied as conceptual texts.

In short, the most important feature is that it blends with its environment, and that it will never fall out of fashion.

19 1997-2008

1. Stone Mirror, 1997, stainless steel, marble, 410 × 200 × 150 cm, collection of Yuzi Paradise.

2. Production scene of Stone Mirror, Yuzi Paradise, Guilin.

3. Landscape Mirror, 1997, stainless steel, wooden furnitures, left: 166 × 75 × 60 cm, right: 190 × 90 × 40 cm.

4. Landscape Mirror, 1998–2008, stainless steel, wooden furniture, table: 175 × 150 × 135 cm, chairs: 107 × 52 × 47 cm × 4, collection of How Art Museum.

This outdoor sculpture, Stone Mirror, was made on site for the sculpture park of Yuzi Paradise in Guilin. The stainless-steel part was created using the stone-rubbing technique, applied directly to the opposite cliff. The frame was made from local marble.

20 1997

Construction Plan (collaborated), 1997, dimension variable, Huairou, Beijing.

Using locally sourced trees, I made two door frames and a huge chair, surrounding a group of colossal stones. This work seems to be asking an ancient-yet-modern question: How do we return to nature and live with it? It was made in collaboration with German sculptor Georg Ahrens and was shown at the first Forest Park Sculpture Exhibition in Huairou, Beijing.

21 1997-2006

1. Weapon Bonsai No.1, 1997, bronze, collection of Chin Pao San.

2. Weapon Bonsai No.2, 2006, 798 Art District (currently UCCA Center for Contemporary Art), Beijing.

When I visited Taiwan in 1997, I created this bronze sculpture Weapon Bonsai at Chin Pao San Cemetery in Wanli District, New Taipei City. Bonsai represents a culture shared by Taiwan and the Mainland. The artificial rockery traditionally placed in bonsai pots are here replaced by different weapons, a metaphor for crisis (Figure 1). Later, I dragged a real cannon into an exhibition hall in a large industrial workshop (which later became the UCCA Center for Contemporary Art). I fired the cannon using firecrackers while releasing dry ice, creating a sense of danger in beauty. (Figure 2)

22 1998

Sketch of Octahedral Desire (Heyday King Hong), 1998.

This is an imagined super-powered man. He has an astronaut’s head, a bear’s upper arm, another arm holding a book, a hand lifting a dumbbell, a strong human leg, a horse leg with a hoof, a hawk leg, a woman’s leg in a stocking, and so on.

23 1998

Sketch of Invisibility Cloak, 1998.

Walking around the city wearing a cloak made of mirrored fabric to remain invisible in the streets. The concept of an invisibility cloak works by reflecting the surrounding environment to conceal oneself; as the saying goes, “The ultimate hermit retreats into the center of town.” When one puts on an outfit with a superficial identification, can the wearer conceal his innate substance?

24 1998

Floating Rock, 1998, He Xiangning Art Museum, Shenzhen.

In the public area of the He Xiangning Art Museum in Shenzhen, I let a stainless-steel rock float in water for the first time. The original rock—dug out of the pond—remains still, contrasting with the stainless-steel rock, which rotates with the wind. This exhibition was the first public art project hosted at OCT Contemporary Art Terminal (OCAT). The pond was dug specifically for this exhibition.

25 1998

1. Video still of New Art Quick Training Workshop-Plaster Statues, 1998.

2. New Art Quick Training Workshop-Plaster Statues, 1998, mixed media including mud and plaste, Yaojiayuan abandoned workshop in the eastern suburb of Beijing.

This was a piece created by the audience at the underground exhibition Trace of Existence. The audience was asked to choose a plaster statue (be it Chinese or foreign) as the core mold, apply clay to sculpt it, and then remold it into a new plaster sculpture. One could produce a masterpiece within five minutes, because it was built upon an existing sculpture. A Fast Art Manual accompanied the work on site.

26 1999

1. The earth is made of different rocks.

2. Every rock has a different shape and is unique in the world.

3. Remove a rock.

4. Find a rock material of the same size.

5. Replicate this rock.

6. Make it exactly the same.

7. Place the replica where the original rock was removed.

8. Use the removed rock to decorate the gate.

Humans’ Creative Actions Initiative

Digital sketch of Humans’ Creative Actions, 1999.

27 1999

1. In 1965, Joseph Kosuth presented the work One and Three Chairs, image retrieved online.

2. The Fourth Chair, A Replica, 1999, wood, produced by Li Waitian (the former assistant of Zhan Wang).

The Fourth Chair, A Replica

This is a replica of a non-industrialized, standard mass-produced chair widely used in Chinese public schools and state-owned enterprises during the 1970’s. It has the following features: 1) It’s a simplified version of the Yoke-Back Armchair (named after guan mao, a particular style of hat worn by government officials in that era) used by civil servants in Late Qing dynasty; 2) It eschews all superfluous decorative elements, such as carvings, curves, or any other non-practical features; 3) The sole purpose of its design is to save material and labor, thus it adopts the most basic manufacturing methods. To a certain extent, this chair echoes minimalism’s pursuit of stripping things down to their essence. Of course, the starting points of the chair’s design and minimalism were totally different. Due to societal poverty, the chair’s designers intended to reject the concept of bourgeois luxury; at that time, not only chairs, but all furniture and housing shared these simplified characteristics. Though minimalism rejects bourgeois luxury to some degree, it has mainly addressed artistic language, which was then reaching its ultimate state of articulation. At that point in time, socialist ideology brushed shoulders with minimalism. Referencing Kosuth’s One and Three Chairs, The Fourth Chair, A Replica attempts to add a conceptual possibility: a “replicated chair” made from the “equally poor” ideal that exists under a socialist planned economy characterized by replication.

28 2000

1. Sound Art: World Noise, 2000, press release.

2. Beijing Book Building, Xidan, Beijing.

This is an audio work. I randomly typed on a computer keyboard to create a page of jumbled words, then asked a CCTV news anchor to read it as if it were a formal news broadcast. It was originally scheduled to air during the Knowledge Is Power exhibition at the Beijing Book Building in February 2000, but it didn’t pass the authorities’ censorship prior to the opening and was withdrawn. With a friend’s help, this audio work was eventually aired on Hangzhou’s official radio channel.

29 2000-2004

1. Floating Rock Drifts on the Open Sea, 2000.

2. Project to Inlay the Great Wall, 2001.

3. New Plan to Fill the Sky, 2000–2003.

4. Mount Everest Project, 2004.

Between 2000 and 2004, I completed four outdoor projects. They were located in the high seas, at the Great Wall, in outer space (a proposal), and on Mount Everest. A common feature of these spaces and locations is that they are hard to reach. They address four different social issues: the high seas—globalization, the Great Wall ruins—money to compensate, outer space—groundless worry, Mount Everest—the highest peak.

Four projects:

Project one: Artist Zhan Wang released a stainless-steel rock onto the high seas. On the rock, he engraved the following message, in five languages: If you find this rock, please put it back in the high seas because that’s where it belongs.

Project two: Artist Zhan Wang produced more than 200 pieces of gilded bricks and used them to fill a dilapidated section of the Great Wall at Badaling in Beijing.

Project three: Artist Zhan Wang reproduced a meteorite that fell to the earth during the Ming dynasty, hoping to return it to outer space using a space shuttle. Due to technical challenges, this replica is now kept at the Xichang Satellite Launch Center.

Project four: The artist Zhan Wang asked a mountaineer to bring a piece of stainless-steel rock to the peak of Everest at 8,844 meters.

Projects in Public Spaces, 2000–2004.

30 2000

1. New Plan to Fill the Sky, 2000, screen print.

2. Rendering for New Plan to Fill the Sky, 2001

This screen print depicts an imagined scene. One can observe the universe and the earth through a hole torn in space. An astronaut holds up a five-colored stone to patch the cracked sky, a reference to the myth Nüwa Mends the Heavens. The edges of the hole were created by burning.

31 2002

Proposal for Renovating the Garden Rocks at Tuisi Garden, 2002, composite image.

Imagine all the rocks in a Suzhou garden are replaced with stainless-steel artificial rockeries.

32 2002

1. Patent certificate for Zhan Wang's method of using stainless steel to make rocks, 2002.

2. Illustration for patent application.

It is very difficult to verify the originality of an artwork. Can we adopt the method used by technology patent applications to indirectly prove the novelty of artwork? This method is not meant for use in potential lawsuits, but rather is grounded on this fact: the ideas behind experimental art come from the concepts behind scientific experimentation, which is spurred on by the protection of intellectual property rights. But the rights to artworks have been difficult to prove since antiquity. Entering the twentieth century, however, artists have gradually begun to prioritize originality, with the same dedication as scientists pursuing innovative research.

33 2002

Burial: Shell of Mao Suits, 2002, cloth Mao Suit sculptures, crates, white cloth, 15 pieces, each 85 × 80 × 48 cm, underneath the Guangdong Museum of Art.

In 2002, on the last day of the Guangzhou Triennial, I buried the Mao Suit series (1994) underneath the Guangdong Museum of Art; this event was documented with an inscription on a nearby stone tablet. Linen covered shells will gradually rot underground and ultimately become artifacts when they are one day unearthed. According to my agreement with the Museum, I still retain the rights to this work in expectation of future excavation and re-creation.

34 2002-2006

1. The first exhibition of Urban Landscape, 2002, stainless-steel rocks and cookware, Harvest – Contemporary Art Exhibition of China, Agricultural Exhibition Center, Beijing.

2. Visiting the stainless-steel cookware market in Shenzhen.

3. Proposal of Urban Landscape, 2003, Chinese Pavilion, The 50th Venice Biennale: Dreams and Conflicts.

Cheap stainless-steel cookware fills people’s lives like cheap skyscrapers fill our cities. They pretend to construct a world parallel to nature. The cadence of crowded concrete-and-glass buildings unconsciously imitates the rhythm of natural landscapes, while wisely misleading people into taking this life for granted.

Stainless-steel cookware is also an imitation of antique cookware. It is a shared phenomenon, one that originated from people’s daily lives. I placed my personal behavior of recreating artificial rocks alongside the collective effort to reproduce cookware in order to explore their relationship.

35 2003-2009

1. New Bonsai, 2003, stainless-steel cookware, each about 120 × 205 cm.

2. Rendering for Hot Pot Pagoda, 2009.

The same goes for stainless-steel cookware. Both the bonsai and the hot pot have this stainless-steel material in common. Other than that, they both provide a framework through which we observe the world, eat foods, and even entertain ourselves. An expansion plan: Stack up enlarged stainless-steel pots into a hot pot pagoda.

36 2003

1. Flower in the Mirror—Me, 2004, photograph.

2. Flower in the Mirror—San Francisco, 2005.

Photographing the reflections—including figures and landscapes— on stainless-steel rockeries. Industrially manufactured mirrors reflect regular shapes, while the irregular surfaces of artificial rocks refract images into infinite forms. The image on the left shows different reflections of my body. The image on the right shows stainless-steel surfaces replacing hanging marble screens in a Suzhou garden, reflecting outdoor scenery in San Francisco—the model in these photographs is my wife.

37 2004

Rendering for the proposal An Extra of Railing, 2004.

I chose a section of white marble railing by the West Lake in Huizhou, Guangdong, and reproduced it using the same white marble material, and then placed it next to the original as an extra railing. People tend to notice abnormal objects, which ultimately leads them to contemplate the nature of art.

This proposal was not accepted by the investors at the time.

38 2004

Decomposition of Movement, 2004, poster.

Picking up trash is the most basic action an individual can perform in a public space, but this habit is rarely seen in China. In response, I made this small poster to give deep meaning to a simple action.

39 2004

1. Buddha Medicine, 2004, Chinese Medicine bolus, dimension variable.

2. Buddha Medicine (detail), 2004–2006, Western pills, 105 × 80 × 65 cm.

3. Instruction and package of Buddha Medicine.

One time, when I was on a plane, I pressed a Chinese medicine bolus into the shape of a Buddha head and then swallowed it—the Buddha entered my body with the bolus. Since then I started to create the series of Buddha Medicine.

40 2004

1. Proposal of Dance in the Wind, 2004, wind power engine and trash.

2. Proposal of Rain Pattering at Plantain Leaves, 2004, spray system and a plantain.

Use three fans with adjustable power to blow trash into the air and grow plants inside a sealed glass showcase with artificial rain. Though these two proposals didn’t ultimately materialize, they reflected my attempts to recreate poetic scenes using mechanical methods, and heralded my later piece, Suyuan Stone Generator.

41 2005

Zhan Wang Studio in Wanghai Tower, 2005, Houhai, Beijing.

I participated in a group show by introducing the process of making an artificial rockery. The production of an artificial rockery is, in itself, an expression of ideas. By changing the flat nature of industrial materials, the rockery integrates industry with nature and infuses ideas into the process. The exhibition was located in Wanghai Tower, Houhai Park, Beijing.

42 2006

1. The New Suyuan Stone Catalogue, 2006, catalogue and stainless-steel cover.

2. Chinese version of The New Suyuan Stone Catalogue published by SDX Joint Publishing.

In 2006, I began to write about making stainless-steel artificial rockeries and the stories behind them. This book’s structure and chapters faithfully followed Suyuan Stone Catalogue, written by Lin Youlin during the Ming dynasty, but the content now concerned the stories behind these stainless-steel rocks. The image shows the stainless-steel book cover of New Suyuan Stone Catalogue beside the original Suyuan Stone Catalogue.

43 2007-2019

1. Taboo, 2007, material and dimension variable.

2. Photo of Beijing Evening News, collected by Zhan Wang.

I saw this baby with mosaicked private parts in a news photo. Later, when I took a picture of my one-week-old daughter, I subconsciously added a mosaic. I produced the three-dimensional mosaic as contents of the pictures existing as three-dimensional entities to me. The concept of “taboo” is no longer important at the moment. What’s important is the existence of “taboo” itself.

44 2007

1. Video still of Reincarnation, 2007.

2. Proposal written by Zhan Wang’s assistant.

Grind a piece of Taihu stone into powder and scatter it back onto the earth. This work was made on the advice of my assistant. Below is the proposal for the work, as written by my assistant.

45 2007

1. Return Project, 2007, 40 × 30 × 15 cm, Potala Palace, Lhasa, Tibet.

2. A hurried handover ceremony at the Potala Palace, 2007.

I brought back a rock from Tibet that was found at an altitude above 5,000 meters and reproduced it using stainless steel in my Beijing studio, then sent the replica back to the Potala Palace in Lhasa. In order to donate the rock, I dodged strict surveillance and placed the replica on the offering table below a statue of the 13th Dalai Lama. The original rock is kept in my Beijing studio.

46 2007

Burning God (to be finished), 2007, video.

At a private spiritual site in Chiayi City, Taiwan, people burn used religious statues in exchange for new ones. Isn’t it ominous to burn the statues? As it turns out, before they burn a statue, they say prayers to send the attached “god” back to heaven, leaving the statue a mere carved wooden material without a divine spirit, thus making it safe to burn. When they welcome a new one, they pray again to call the “god” down to dwell in the new wooden statue at the spiritual site. Can we interpret

the action of “burning god” as the “binary opposition” characteristic of Eastern culture?

47 2008

Video still of Birth of an Artificial Rock, 2008.

I filmed the process of making a stainless-steel rockery as well as various demolition and construction sites around Beijing’s streets, and made the two sets of footage into a two-channel video. The process of making an artificial rockery starts from laying down the materials, then cutting, hammering, soldering, and polishing it into a perfectly shiny and flawless condition. When the old city of Beijing was relocated and demolished, a lot of new and shiny modern materials, such as glass and metal, were used to rebuild it—brand-new skyscrapers covering the entire city. Natural materials appear out of place in a picture of urban life pieced together by artificial materials.

48 2008

1. ATM Deity Search Engine, 2008, stainless steel, ATM technology, 200 × 75 × 75 cm.

2. Interface of ATM Deity Search Engine.

This work was inspired by the Zhangjiang Hi-Tech Park in Shanghai. The digital images of idols from around the world were uploaded to an electronic device, so that people with different faiths could find their gods to worship. If one didn’t have any faith, one could take a selfie and import it into the device, thus becoming a god of their own. The best location for this ATM Deity Search Engine is next to an actual ATM machine. By placing the action of withdrawing a deity next to that of withdrawing cash, the ideal state of spiritual and material equilibrium can be achieved.

49 2008

1. Stone to Fill the Sky, 2008, stainless steel, electric magnet, wooden frame, National Museum of China.

2. Sketch of New Plan to Fill the Sky, 2000.

Using the principle of electromagnetic levitation, a stainless-steel replica of a Ming-dynasty meteorite from the Beijing Planetarium was suspended in the air, slowly rotating. This movement is perpetual, unless the power is cut.

50 2008

Rendering for Urban Nomad—A Future without a Past, 2008.

I’ve lived in Beijing since I was born. I grew up, went to school, and started working in a city where everything is changing before my eyes. It’s like one person moves forward while another person erases his footprints from behind. Or, it’s like in a video game, where the ground keeps collapsing behind you as you run. I’m an urban nomad, facing a future without a past.

51 2008

1. Whole view of 86 Divinity Figures, 2008, plaster, Long March Space, Beijing.

2. Destroying the first statue, installation view of 86 Divinity Figures, 2008, Long March Space, Beijing.

3. Clock of Divinity, 2008.

I’m the 86th generation descendant of my Zhan ancestor who lived 2,000 years ago. I made this ancestral statue in 2008 when my hometown in Shandong was restoring our ancestral hall. The Confucian Sage Liu Xiahui was my ancestor. I learned from our genealogy that our ancestral hall was in a constant cycle of destruction and restoration, so I made 86 copies of this plaster statue, which were on view for 22 days at Long March Space in Beijing’s 798 Art District. During the exhibition, the statues were destroyed on a daily basis until only one remained, the 86th statue. All the ruins and the last statue would enter the to-be-restored ancestral hall in my hometown for future generations to admire.

52 2008

Industrial Strange Rock, 2008, Siemens washing machine cylinder.

I reproduced a rock using the metal cylinder from a washing machine in an attempt to recreate a natural stone using an industrial product.

53 2009-2019

1. Fractal Structure No.3, 2009–2019, stainless steel, 52.5 × 152 × 122 cm.

2. Fractal Structure No.1, 2009, stainless steel, dimension variable.

Cut a stainless-steel rock and seal the surfaces. Choose one of the fragments to cut into smaller pieces. Repeat the cutting and sealing process until the technically fundamental pieces are achieved.

54 2009

1. Dual System, 2009, plaster, dimension variable.

2. Dual System, 2009, plaster, stainless-steel frame, installation view of Zhan Wang: Objects of Idea, 2020, Long March Space, Beijing.

Cezanne believed we could summarize nature in terms of the cylinder, the sphere, and the cone—which was a positive way to understand the essence of the world. Yet, when these shapes are slanted, our understanding of the world takes on a magical tint. The slanting forms have a fluid, uncertain, and dynamic effect as if they were blown over by the wind—the essence of the world takes on a skewed turn.

55 2009

1. Video still of Heart, 2009.

2. Image of an electrocardiogram.

One day in 2009, I was playing with a laser pointer when I accidentally pointed at a hammered stainless-steel board lying on the ground. The laser beam was cast on the wall, forming an enormous, dynamic figure. When I tried to shoot a still image, I was surprised to find out that I couldn’t stop the image from shifting, even if I stopped breathing, because my heart was beating nonstop, out of my control. So I found a video recorder to film it instead. With my further observation, I realized that the heartbeat was in fact irregular, as shown on the electrocardiogram, thus the images reflected on the wall appeared to be constantly morphing into new shapes, allowing us to see “the shapes of a heart.”

56 2010

Jia Shan Die Wu (collaborated with MVRDV), 2010, stainless steel or wood.

This was a project done in collaboration with the Netherlands based firm of architects MVRDV. The architect was fascinated by the private sheds built on the rooftops of residential buildings in Taiwan. After some discussion, we came up with the idea of building “biscuit structures.” I wanted every structure to have a different shape, and used Chinese methods of rockery-stacking to build multi-layered rock buildings. We also made wooden blocks for the audience to play with and participate in the process of building a construction model.

57 2010

1. Patent certificate for Suyuan Stone Generator, 2010.

2. Installation view of One Hour Equals 100 Million Years—Suyuan Stone Generator, 2010, Today Art Museum.

3. Sketch of Suyuan Stone Generator, 2010.

Generally speaking, it takes hundreds of millions of years for mountains and rocks to form naturally. Suyuan Stone Generator is an assembled device which can simulate the weathered surfaces of a stone aged hundreds of millions of years. I constructed the interior of the button controlled generator to simulate natural elements such as wind, rain, waves, earthquakes, fire, and sunshine. We can watch the molding process inside the generator until a stone is made in about one hour. This was the second time I obtained a patent for my work. It was first on view at Today Art Museum. For eight days, the generator made stones on site, under the audience’s gaze. The exhibition ended on the day of the opening.

58 2010-2014

1. 45 Degree Artificial Rock, 2010–2014, stainless steel, 590 × 132 × 65 cm, installation view of Harbour Arts Sculpture Park, 2018, Hong Kong.

2. Inside an old house in Shenzhen, 2019, Dapeng Fortress Lai Enjue Lord’s House, Shenzhen.

In 1994, artist Geng Jianyi initiated a creative project called 45 Degrees as a Reason. I submitted an installation work called Bird Trap, an adaptation of a simple bird-catching device used by children. Tie a little bird to a small stick that supports an iron net at a 45-degree angle. Research books about birds replace the original millet bait normally placed under the net. Whoever tries to pick up the books will startle away the bird holding the string, thus trapping said person inside the net. Forty-five-degrees is the perfect angle. If the angle were higher, it might take too long for the net to fall; if it were lower, there might not be enough time for a foraging bird to enter the trap.

Looking back now, 45-degrees remains the most logical and powerful angle of erection. It is also the most dangerous angle, because it sits at a tipping point. When a huge slab is leaning at a 45-degree angle, it is positioned at the critical moment between rising or falling.

Twenty years later, I made this 45-degree stainless-steel artificial rock to commemorate that artistic experiment.

59 2010-2011

1. Scene of the first trial of My Personal Universe, 2010, Wenyu River, Beijing.

2. The first, the second and the third explosion (left to right).

3. Installation view of My Personal Universe, 2011, UCCA Contemporary Art Center, Beijing.

To create My Personal Universe, we had three trials of rock explosions. In November 2010, we did the first trial by the Wenyu River on the outskirts of Beijing; in early December, we held the second trial in Fei County, Shandong province; on December 30, we finished the final trial in Zhutian Village, also in Fei County. Each trial was documented from six angles simultaneously with high-speed cameras running at 2000 frames per second. After the explosions, all the rock fragments were transported back to Beijing and made into stainless-steel pieces, which were displayed hanging in the air at the UCCA Contemporary Art Center, recreating a specific moment of the explosions, while six life-sized videos played on the sides.

60 2011

1. Back to Sand, 2011, stainless steel, 500 × 230 × 73 cm.

2. Head of Orange Isle, Xiangjiang.

3. Crushed stone after being smashed.

4. Installation view of Art Changsha.

Porous scholar rocks can be found in Xiangjiang. These hard, grayish-black rocks contain white and scarlet markings. Xiangjiang is also the birthplace of many revolutionaries who have enriched this place and filled it with pride. Today, Xiangjiang is energetic and has immersed itself in the nation-wide culture of “Amusing Ourselves to Death.” I purchased a Xiangjiang rock, had it shipped to Beijing, and replicated it using stainless-steel plates. The original rock was then smashed into hundreds or thousands of smaller pieces, each containing a red mark to prove its origin as a Xiangjiang rock. When this work was shown in Changsha, the visitors were allowed to take the small pieces away, returning them back to the human world. All that remained was sand.

—2011 Zhan Wang Inscription

61 2012

1. Universe No.21, 2012, 168 × 122 × 10 cm, produced at the Singapore Tyler Print Institute.

2. The rock before it was smashed.

First, I used a hammer to smash the rock, whose fragments spread across the surface before stopping by friction. Then, I smashed a small fragment, and then a smaller one, signaling the multiplicity of the Big Bang. I numbered the fragments and recorded their positions. I duplicated all the fragments using resin and plated them in nickel (a material that produces a mirror effect). I continued grinding the remaining fragments into powder to make the backing paper of the work. The replicated fragments were then glued to the backing paper in their exact original positions to recreate the visual impact of the instant of the explosion.

62 2012-2018

1. Concealed Rock No.1, 2012, acrylic resin, 60 × 42 × 27 cm.

2. Concealed Rock No.2, 2012, acrylic resin, 73 × 180 × 38.5 cm.

Use a transparent material to make a rock, polish it, and encase it in the same transparent material. In theory, the first rock should disappear into the encasement. Since it is hand-crafted, however, the outline of the first rock remains faintly visible under the light.

63 2012

Form of the Formless, 2012, a beam of light, Long March Space, Beijing.

In my solo show at Long March Space in 2012, only a beam of light was displayed. It was inspired by my childhood memory of seeing dust floating in the sunlight shining into the room. The dust that we think does not exist simply because we don’t see it is, in fact, always living with us. You don’t see what you are immersed in.

64 2013-2019

An Eternal Light Beam, 2019, white marble, 176 × 20 × 6 cm.

An Eternal Light Beam was carved from white marble, echoing the “invisible” light beam Form of the Formless shown at Long March Space in 2012.

65 2013

1. Video still of the work's implementation at Green Island, Taiwan.

2. A Rock Sunk in the Sea, 2013, video, LED light box, installation view of La Biennale Di Venezia Collateral Exhibition.

A diver threw a rock into the ocean, brought it out of water, threw it back in, and brought it back up again. This process was repeated three times, until the stone sank to the bottom of the ocean. Filmed in Hualien, Taiwan, the video was rendered into an irregular hexagonal LED light box (abstracted representation of a rock) for display.

66 2013-2019

From a cosmic perspective, a rock has no front or back. On the right is an artificial rock on a six-sided base, appreciated from six different angles.

Artificial Rock No.164 (Hexahedral Artificial Rock), 2013–2019, hexahedral stainless-steel rock, hexahedral acrylic based resin plinth.

67 2013-2019

Laozi's Voyage, 2019, iron, white marble, plastic toy.

A plan from 2013: a heart made of iron and a colon made of white marble. The name literally translated as “Iron Heart Stone Bowel,” which is a Chinese idiom. When I was executing this plan in 2019, I placed my daughter’s Japanese kawaii “Gudetama” toy on the top to balance out the solid materials below.

68 2013

Vines, 2013, rope, dimension variable.

Spread out a roll of rope (length variable) into an evenly scattered pile. The rope appears to be interlacing without beginning or end, like countless snakes intertwined together, forming a complex and chaotic image. This work has two names, the elegant name is Vines, and the vulgar name is Group Sex.

69 2013

1. Lost Paradise, 2013, wood and mixed media, 300 × 300 × 26 cm.

2. Scene at the moment.

One day, I gave my daughter a large plastic toy house with all the household equipment inside. She opened the gift and strewed the parts everywhere. This destructive, unconscious behavior reminded me of my work Universe. I found that both—each with an unconscious force—generated an equivalent energy, and the positions of all the fragments seemed to originate from the same energy source. So, I glued all the fragments onto a board to make an art installation titled Lost Paradise.

70 2013

1. Video still of the interview after the auction.

2. Seeking the Immateriality, 2013, certificate of auction purchase.

Randomly select a 100 RMB bill for auction:

1. If the 100 RMB bill is auctioned for 100 RMB, the matter remains the same matter.

2. If the 100 RMB bill is auctioned for less than 100 RMB, it shows that non-matter does not exist.

3. If the 100 RMB bill is auctioned for more than 100 RMB, it shows non-matter exists. The higher the bid, the more non-matter there is.

The smallest particles in the universe are still physical matter, such as the God Particle. This piece attempts to locate non-matter factors in the material world by auctioning the medium of material exchange—such as money—rather than auctioning the material itself.

Once sold, the 100 RMB bill is not allowed to be auctioned again. The net profit 10,039.50 RMB (management fees deducted) does not enter the physical world and is permanently sealed in a box. This work was auctioned at Shanghai Hongsheng’s Auction Biennale.

71 2013-2019

1. Small Floating Island of Immortals, 2013–2019, copper colored in incense, 55 × 90 × 45 cm.

2. The scene of worship, 2013–2019.

I placed a bronze sculpture of Small Floating Island of Immortals on the offering table in a temple for six years, until it was slowly blackened by the incense smoke. The worship space unintentionally became a dye lab for the sculpture, attaching an invisible energy (divinity) to it.

72 2013

There is an Energy Called Unknown, 2013, Kaohsiung, Taiwan.

Select scrapped steel from smashed cars and sculpt it into an abandoned space vehicle in an attempt to predict what might happen in the next few hundred years: a space vehicle crashing to earth. The installation was made at the steel-sculpture art festival in Kaohsiung, Taiwan in 2013. It was displayed at the old railway station in the Pier-2 Art Center in Kaohsiung.

73 2014

Space Invader, 2014, performance.

The Universe project was carried out in the exhibition space. To create the scene, a rock was smashed into pieces—forming the original universe. When the audience unconsciously stepped into this universe, the order of the “universe” was destroyed and changed, resulting in chaos and the disappearance of its energy field.

74 2014

1. Not a Dragon Bone, 2014, scrapped steel, dimension variable, Guangdong.

2. Rendering for Not a Dragon Bone.

A scrapped steel bridge from the heyday of French industrialization was transported to a park in southern China. The legends of the Industrial Revolution inspire our imagination like the tales of ancient dinosaurs leaving behind colossal fossils to be unearthed.

75 2014

A Piece of Sky, 2014, photos taken by phone.

I took a picture of the sky with my phone camera nearly every day from April 1 to August 3, 2014, until the U.S. Embassy published Beijing’s PM2.5 value for the first time, as Beijing’s air pollution continued to worsen. At the time I stopped shooting, the sky remained grey every day. This coincidence (a sign from heaven) turned my futile photographing into a piece of art.

76 2010-2017

1. Morph No.1, 2010–2017, marble (sunset red stone), 290 × 160 × 120 cm, Long Museum (West Bund), Shanghai.

2. Image reflected by stainless-steel rock.

3. Morph No.1–No.4, 2010–2017, marble (sunset red stone).

These stainless-steel rocks are replications of natural rocks. Their polished surfaces reflect and deflect human figures that blend into the wavy landscapes of the rocks. Based on my recordings of these images, I made large three-dimensional stone sculptures using traditional sculpture techniques, making the instant form eternal. They are the antithesis of “realistic representations of objects,” one of the Six Principles of Chinese Painting as introduced by Xie He.

77 2014

Metamorph-Experiment, 2014, ultra-light clay.

I used ultra-light clay to cast a human figure, then folded it back into an infant posture as an anti-sculpture experiment, returning from the realistic to the abstract.

78 2014

Metamorph, 2014, ultra-light clay.

I used ultra-light clay to produce human figures, then shaped them at will, pretending that I was myself a stainless-steel artificial rock that arbitrarily deflects the objects reflected on my surface. A shape is not an object; it lacks the weight and substance of an object. In fact, it’s not even sure what it is—but its form would surely be mistaken for something. A shape is not an image either; no caption can be added to it. A shape lingers on the surface without any substance underneath; it is a superficial being that lives on other objects. It is a mere boundary between objects and space. An object can be destroyed, but its shape remains, floating like smoke or evaporating into the air. These sculptures are weightless or boneless.

79 2015

Sketch of Study for Metamorph, 2015.

The reflected images on the artificial rocks exhibit an oblique quality. The gradual changes of these reflections defy any realistic logic. They don’t seem to be morphing into anything, but rather expand or diminish according to an intrinsic flow. Their endless changes constitute a visual logic. Life has no purpose; life is the purpose.

80 2015

The Trap of Images and Symbols (a text work)

Migrant workers wearing camouflage uniform selling a turtle, image retrieved online.

One time, as I got off the highway and drove onto the side road, I saw someone dressed like a migrant worker holding a turtle. The turtle was tied up sloppily with a rope and hung upside down, its feet lightly stroking the air. To be safe while driving, I only glanced at it for a couple seconds, but the image of this man and the turtle was firmly etched in my memory. A migrant worker wearing a yellow helmet, a camouflaged uniform, and muddy black boots—as if he has just sneaked out of a construction site or, to be exact, a construction site for excavating a foundation. It reminds us of a familiar scenario. On a construction site, a group of migrant workers are working deep underground. Suddenly, they find a millennia-old old turtle hiding down there. Wow! A wild turtle! On the market, most of the turtles are farm-raised; wild turtles are certainly several times or even a dozen times more expensive. So, a few buddies ask another migrant worker to smuggle the turtle out to sell. Since this idea is so new, there is no need to go to the market. Just sell it by the road! Tax free! Perhaps a driver will happen to drive by. Why not bring a wild turtle back home for his wife to make a bowl of tonic turtle soup? Will the driver believe their story? No? Behind the turtle seller, there is an expansive background composed of construction sites filled with the camouflage uniforms, yellow helmets, and mud-stained boots worn by professional construction workers wearing good-natured smiles on their tanned faces—how can you not believe it? In any event, from the logical, visual, and symbolic perspectives, every scene is validated and there is no reason to raise suspicion. I almost stopped my car to ask for the price! But I instead turned to look ahead; in just a few seconds, I stopped believing it—I stopped believing it for no particular reason. If there were a reason, it would be that the imagined scene— which perfectly matched the visual and symbolic theories—was too real and vivid in my mind. In other words, one of our functions as human beings is to instantaneously interpret images and symbols. But if logic were designed as a trap for us to activate this function, then our life would be filled with these logical traps and we would have no excuses with which to refute them. On the other hand, isn’t it in the unexpected chance encounters of images and symbols that we can find the truth of the world?

81 2015-2018

1. Imprinting Terrain, 2015, stainless steel.

2. Imprinting Terrain, 2015, stainless steel, Shanghai Pujiang OCT Sino-Italian Center

3. Imprinting Terrain, 2018, stainless steel, 100 × 100 cm.

This work was originally made in my studio in Beijing’s Tongzhou District. At the end of 2015, my studio relocated from Tongzhou District to Shunyi District. For my farewell piece, I replicated a piece of Tongzhou land using the stone-rubbing technique. The price for the piece of land was the mean value of the residential properties sold in Tongzhou from 2015 to 2018, which was 41,314.39 RMB (per square meter). According to the per capita living area in Beijing—which was 32 square meters—I made and sold 32 pieces of works.

Source of information: I searched on the official website of the Beijing Municipal Commission of Planning and Natural Resources and found a total of seven public announcements of residential-property transactions in Tongzhou District from 2015 to 2018, four of which were transactions involving residential properties and three of which were multi-use land (including residential lands). The total construction area of the four residential properties listed for sale between 2015 and 2018 was 179,671.05 square meters, and the total sale price was 7.423 billion RMB. Based on this data, the average price of residential properties sold between 2015 and 2018 was 41,314.39 RMB.

82 2015

Shadow Imprints, 2015, design and painting of the Shaun Sheep.

Sheep are raised in captivity inside a pen. The word “captivity” (圈养, juàn yǎng) itself comes from the word “sheep” in China. Sheep raised in a pen often carry shadow imprints from sunlight casting through their fence. Even when a sheep is set free, it continues to carry that haunting shadow. “Captivity”: a management method for confining and training subjects to be obedient.

83 2015

Puppet, 2015, cloth.

When I awake, I gather the cushions I used the previous night and arrange them into a puppet sitting on a chair, facing the empty bed. At night, I take the puppet apart and use the cushions to sleep. Repeat this cycle.

84 2012-2015

1: Smash a rock, replicate it, smash, replicate, smash again, replicate again.

2: The stainless-steel rock, when cracked open, reveals its inner reality—its rough interior is the polar opposite of its shiny surface.

1. Fragmented Rock, 2013–2015, stainless steel, 800 × 200 × 180 cm.

2. Open, 2012, stainless steel, 500 × 250 × 160 cm.

85 2015

Plaster Statue, 2015, plaster, 193 × 107 × 130 cm.

Replicate an Artificial Rock into a plaster sculpture to be used for education. A plaster sculpture can be used as a hypothetical model for studying the world, like the Large Hadron Collider used by scientists. In fact, the world is a model, or a modeled world.

86 2016

Energy Stone, 2016.

Popcorn is made from heat-generated energy, which causes the corn kernels to explode in a small confined space. The blossoming shape of the popcorn records the moment of explosion while preserving the power contained in that moment pregnant with energy. I carved a couple pieces of popcorn from marble, preserving the momentary energy for eternity; as the saying goes, “A grain of millet contains the entire Mount Meru.”

87 2011-2016

Gold Mountain, 2011–2016, copper, gold leaf, 12 × 101 × 40 cm.

This is a “failed” piece. As early as 2011, based on international affairs at the time, I speculated that serious conflicts would arise over the Diaoyu Islands. I wanted to make a sculpture of the Diaoyu Islands in advance, this foresight and insinuation would then lead to another kind of conceptual sculpture—that the former sculpture existed prior to the conflicts would suggest for the latter to happen. But the conflicts arrived earlier than expected, rendering the work outdated. When the factor of advanced prediction as the premise of the work no longer existed, the work failed.

88 2016-2018

1. Video still of Form in Flux, 2016.

2. Form in Flux No.6 (Volcanized Rock), 2018, volcanized rock, 3D engraving, 250 × 88 × 52 cm.

The mathematical algorithms of fluid mechanics are employed here to simulate the mutations of a person (using the artist as the prototype) after he is swallowed by lava. The force of the running lava (including its temperature) keeps changing the physical shape of the person (while the person also modifies the lava) until the lava irretrievably reduces the person into particles dissipating into the eternal flow of natural elements. The program is set up such that each entry of a person into the lava is a random and singular event that never repeats. This unseen invisibility suggests the different mutational states of an individual as he enters society, encountering accumulating clashes. Different entry points of time lead to different opportunities. The never-repeating shapes are analogous to perception of human. In other words, there are as many perceptions as there are shapes.

89 2016-2019

1. Form in Flux assemblage, 2017, generated by the mathematical algorithms.

2. The sculpture Form in Flux in stainless steel are fired and glazed in refined colors, 2016–2019.

This Form in Flux series explores the relationship between shapes and colors; it is the materialization of mathematical algorithms. The 3D printing directly turns the invisible movements of mathematical equations (their function is to simulate naturally formed theories) into visible sculptures. I used the technique of duplicating artificial rocks to duplicate a Form in Flux sculpture into stainless-steel sculptures, polished their surfaces, and glazed them with colors under high temperature while maintaining their reflective surfaces. Here, horror and beauty emerge simultaneously.

90 2017

Form, 2017, fluid mechanics and algorithms, 3D printing, aluminum, 48 × 30 × 18 cm.

A square is an artificial, abstract, and inorganic shape that does not exist in nature. When it enters the fluid world, it goes through a series of changes and morphs into an organic image. The organic image is different from an abstract square in that it contains a hidden power.

91 2017

Asymmetric Artificial Rock, 2017, stainless steel.

The shapes of my “Artificial Rocks” follow the theorem that no two rocks in nature are alike. This was the first time I joined two identical artificial rocks in reverse to create a rock that was impossible to find in nature—it is balanced, but not symmetrical (not a mirror image). It further explores the artificial concept of “artificiality.”

92 2017

Raining Dust, 2017, hand painted silk garment with ink, fan, 160 × 120 × 60 cm.

This work is related to the “Belt and Road Initiative”: hand paint a pseudo-antique silk garment with ink; prints to include springs, plastic bags, and water bottles—representing automobiles, objects, and water. During the exhibition, put a fan inside it to create a scene of human relics that can be blown away by the desert wind at any time.

93 2017

Bookshop of Natural Rocks, 2017, rocks, wooden shelves, Zhan Wang artist studio at Shunyi, Beijing.

In 2010, I transported all the rocks that I had blasted in Shandong Province back to my studio in Beijing. I never had an opportunity to organize them until my new studio was built, however, when I

finally had the space to display these large and small rock fragments on custom-built wooden shelves. During this process, I found that I’d arranged the rocks according to my own weight-lifting capabilities. Here, the human order and the natural order balance each other, turning this space into a bookshop of natural rocks.

94 2019

Double Magnification, 2019, photography.

I took a picture of a wine glass on the table with a cellphone camera, then zoomed in twice to take closeups. The round bottom of the wine glass magnified and distorted the square napkin underneath into a round shape, thus completely changing the square impression of the napkin, transcending the napkin’s reality.

95 2019

Scoring (Signs), 2019.

In a cramped billiards room, pool cues and human feet often touch the wall, leaving prints and marks behind. From the perspective of a painter, the wall can be seen as an ink-washed landscape fresco. The players who try to score on the table do not know that they are simultaneously scoring on the wall by silently painting a landscape: footprints in the foreground; the back ends of the cues hitting the wall create the middle ground; the dark clouds gathering in distance are from dust in the air. The truth is, it is both scenery and stain.

96 2017-2019

Things Come and Go, 2017–2019.

My new studio in Shunyi used to be an abandoned factory that was burned down by a fire. I gathered all the roof-tiles that fell to the ground to build a wall. What’s so special about this wall is that all the tiles point in different directions—some jut out and some cave back in, forming many tiny steps (like stacking a rockery). One day, artist Weng Fen brought more than a dozen students from the Guangzhou Academy of Fine Arts to visit me. On a spur of the moment idea, I asked everyone to take out some of the items they carried and hang them on the wall. On the spot, I named this work Things Come and Go.

97 2019

Hippology—Replicating a Stone Statue of a Mongolian Horse (ca.10th century AD.), 2019, texts excerpted from

During a trip to Yinchuan, I came across this stone statue of a Mongolian horse at the Ningxia Museum. I was immediately captivated by the horse’s features. Suddenly, many things began to make sense to me. The moment clicked with what I’d been thinking about and untangled many of my predicaments. When I returned to Beijing, I began researching Mongolian horses. I found written records about the species and replicated a Mongolian horse—not following a real horse, but rather this ancient statue, because I realized that this ancient stone was more real than a real Mongolian horse. What this “fake” horse can reveal about “realness” is beyond the real world’s reach. Below is an excerpt of Baidu’s introduction of the Mongolian horse:

Compared to the Ferghana horse and the European horse, the Mongolian horse is smaller in size and is not suitable for modern-day horse racing. Never used as a war horse in Europe, it has been used at war only in China and by ancient China’s northern tribes.

In modern times, before the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) disbanded its cavalry, it considered many horse breeds and eventually chose the Mongolian horse. Although the Mongolian horse is not a good runner, it was still considered the most outstanding and useful horse for the army. After many experiments and trials, the PLA chose the Mongolian horse, not the Yili horse or other breeds, because the Mongolian horse is native to the Mongolian plateau and lives in a semi-feral state. It has neither a comfortable stable nor exquisite feed. Shadowed by foxes and wolves, it eats and sleeps out in the wild steppe, enduring sweltering summers with insects and freezing winters at -40 °C.

The Mongolian horse is small and homely. However, its formidable nature allows it to withstand any harsh weather on the steppe without flinching. With a large head, a short neck, a stocky build, a broad chest, a long mane, tough skin, and thick fur, it can endure Siberian snowstorms. Its hooves can lift to crush the head of a fox or wolf. It has sturdy bones and firm muscles. It isn’t good at jumping, nor is it prone to internal ailments. It rarely suffers from sports injuries and regains strength quickly. It can feed on coarse grass and hold fast to its body fat. It eats fresh grass blades from different seasons. It is hardy, unafraid of the cold, and easy to raise and maintain. With a remarkable vitality, it can survive in extremely harsh conditions. It can walk 60 kilometers within eight hours. A trained Mongolian horse has long been considered a great war horse for its calmness and unparalleled bravery.

This horse breed can labor all year round in agricultural regions until the age of 18. It is small; its average shoulder height is 120–135 cm, its weight 267–370 kg. It has a stocky build, strong limbs, a rough and compact body, a large head and wide forehead, extremely hard hooves, well-developed lungs to cope with heavy loads, thick eyelashes with no eye diseases, better eyesight than other horses, slightly lower color blindness, and no prominent joints so that it can carry heavy loads and walk with ease. There are many Mongolian horses on Chinese horse ranches, but their situation is dire: they are ignored; they have no stables; they receive no attention. Only when a visitor requests a horse ride are they remembered. Thankfully, they do not get sick, otherwise they would have all died.

Modern Mongolian horses are pitiful; hardly anyone pays attention to them. There is no specialized training, no pedigree or heritage, and no modern people can provide for its development. Today’s Mongolian horses are left to perish on their own. How are their bones, muscles, and joints? Are their respiratory systems and hearts fully developed? How well do their heads and necks adapt to the modern age? Are their rears and hind legs still strong? Other than a number of research projects carried out by the millennial Mongolian professor “Manglai”, our country has invested too little to protect Mongolian horses as a resource. The uncertainty of China’s horse industry cannot meet the basic requirements of raising Mongolian horses. The degradation of Mongolian horses cannot be stopped. Is it really true that no fine Mongolian horse is left?

The market’s indifference to the Mongolian horse reflects a lack of public recognition of national brands. The thrill of riding a Mongolian horse and its functions are largely unknown; there are no specialized races for audiences to admire. For a country that is relatively behind in national, Olympic, European, and American Western equestrianism, the Mongolian horse can hardly draw any attention from foreigners.

98 2019

Video still of So FK Clean!, 2019, mobile video, 4 seconds.

One day, after I got off a plane at the Beijing Capital International Airport, I noticed that the airport was eerily spotless. I remembered that the trash recycling campaign was to begin soon and that many places were still very dirty. At that moment, I felt inspired to throw down some trash, so I tossed the empty water bottle in my hand to the ground while taking a video using my cellphone camera.

99 2019

1-2. X+Y Series, 2019, debris from Chang'e 3 Rocket.

3. Mobius Strip, 2019, debris from Chang'e 3 Rocket.

A pile of wreckage from the Chang’e rockets inspired my imagination of the word “primitive” and related words like “origin” and “motivating force.” I think that as technology gets more sophisticated, it also becomes more primitive—like a bent space, the farther the two ends are apart, the closer they are together. Under this premise, I set up rules for my work: respect materials and find their inter-material relations; avoid imposing any presumptions or plans. After finding the connections between the fragments, I re-connected them as if that was what they were supposed to be like.

100 2019

1. Sensing, 2019, installation view of Insight and Vision Jya Art Project 2019, UCCA Lab, UCCA Contemporary Art Center, Beijing.

2. Sensing (detail), 2019, semi-finished materials of appliances.

Process semi-finished materials (the semi-finished products of home appliances and the reverse side of the housing) properly. As the characteristics of the materials, they form an unexpected tension through heating and external pressure. The formula could be summarized as: semi-finished products + semi-production = perceptual awakening. This kind of random, anti-control, and illogical action forms my “sensing.”

101 2019-2020

1. Installation view of Dilemma, 2020.

2. Dilemma, 2019–2020, installation with hexahedral white wall, basketballs, video, dimension variable, Tang Contemporary Art Gallery, Beijing.

Dilemma: Playing basketball in a white hexahedral space, the ball will hit the wall back and forth, causing irregular movements and leaving prints of the ball. The prints form a flat mural, and the mural is constructed by a three-dimensional space. The process of the ball hitting the wall back and forth constitutes the fourth dimension, the dimension of time and process. This seemingly free dimension is actually trapped in an actual three-dimensional space and cannot enlarge.

During the exhibition, basketballs are placed in the space for the audience to experience.

102 2020

1. Quarantine for 14 Days: Scene from the Doomsday, 2020.

2. Quarantine for 14 Days: The Body of COVID-19, 2020, bottles of mineral water.

The work Quarantine for 14 Days took place in the pandemic. I flew directly from Taipei to Beijing and was quarantined at the hotel for 14 days. I treated this fourteen-day quarantine as a particular event to see what I can do and think about. I tried to see all the actions and small works as a whole piece of work. The right image shows The Body of COVID-19, made by 66 empty mineral water bottles branded in Binglu that I finished in 14 days. The work was created in Room 842, Xinhualian Lijing Hot Spring Hotel, Shunyi District, Beijing.

103 2020

1. Video still of Cleaning, mobile video.

2. Cross: Thermometer.

3. Cross: Air Conditioning Port.

4. Mountain Finger.

5. Oblique Cross: Shoehorn and Shoe Brush.

6. Oblique Cross: Stir up Trouble and Handle Trouble.

7. Untitled.

Selected works of Quarantine for 14 Days, 2020, mixed media.

104 2019-2020

The Limit of an Object—Zhan Wang Art Experiments since 1988, 2019–2020, catalogue.

I have been disturbed by the relocation of my studio until it settled down in 2019. I began to organize my works in my personal history, just like using slides in a lecture. I went through the whole list of my works strictly. These works are phased and sometimes detached. Clues of the works appear across different periods, incorporating the form of card playing—to be disrupted and shuffled. The relationship between the slides and cards led to a thought of the limits of objects. I selected 22 works for my solo exhibition at Long March Space, titled Objects of Idea, representing a kind of instantaneous arrival of inspiration. Including this catalogue that contains the nature of Objects of Idea, the exhibition then completes itself with 23 pieces of works. The exhibition is part of the catalogue, and the catalogue is also part of the exhibition. They are works in each other.

Poster of Zhan Wang's solo exhibition Objects of Idea, 2020, Long March Space, Beijing.

Zhan Wang was born in 1962 in Beijing, China. In 1988 he graduated from the sculpture department of the Central Academy of Fine Arts (CAFA) and currently lives and works in Beijing.

Photo: Trunk Xu

Among the many artists who have influenced our time, Zhan Wang is known for using simple materials to formulate complex assemblages and issues. The experimentation in his art can be compared to a mind game, seeking a balance between amusement, temperament and sensation, bringing viewers surprises and revelations but never clear answers. Zhan Wang is recognized as an artist that works truly independently, pursuing lines of inquiry that have emerged out of his own work.

—Huang Zhuang


The Limit of an Object–Zhan Wang Art Experiments Since 1988

Author: Zhan Wang

Editor: Aimee Lin

Managing Editor: Wang Xinger

Translator: TransWords Translations LLC

Proofreader: Qu Shengdong

Design: Li Di

©Zhan Wang for his works

(unless otherwise specified)

©Zhan Wang for his texts

(unless otherwise specified)

All rights reserved.

ISBN 978-0-9801179-7-4

Printing: Beijing Artron Graphic Art Co., Ltd.

First edition, January 2021

First print run in January 2021

Format: 150 mm × 210 mm

Copies: 1000

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