East Contemporary

Zhang Ding “Buddha Jumps over the Wall”

Zhang Ding 张鼎: Buddha Jumps over the Wall
Jun 02- Jul 01, 2012.
Shanghart, Top Contemporary Art Centre, Room 101, Bldg. 5, 18 Wuwei Rd., Shanghai

At the heart of Zhang Ding’s newest solo exhibition is a set of ‘exploding’ plaster sculptures of animals. The sculptures are filled up with red paint inside, and pierced by multiple explosive devices hidden from the surface of the sculpture. During the ‘event’, filmed on a high-speed camera, the explosive devices are triggered: First one by one, giving an illusion of ‘gunshots’ with blood flowing out of the wounds. In the end the work climaxes by magnificent explosion that tears the sculptures into pieces. The video of this event serves as the central piece of the show, and a screenshot from it is also shown on the invitation. The video is accompanied by a classical music soundtrack following a similar grading leading to a climax same as in the visual counterpart. In addition to this piece, the show presents the remains (the ‘flesh’) of the explosion, neatly sorted on a large table like in a butcher’s shop. There are also two round tables with an inlaid photographic version of the ‘pieces of meat’. In the middle of the space, there is a round-shaped wooden construction resembling a pavilion as known from Western romantic parks. This construction is recognizable as Zhang Ding’s work, as he used this kind of round-shaped wooden constructions in his installations on different previous occasions. This whole setup is completed by three large canvases in golden frames. They seem to depict land- and seascapes, with figures. They are painted, but obviously based on a 3D visualization.

Whether we talk about the ‘exploding sculptures’ video, the exhibition of the “remains”, the ‘observation pavilion’ or the golden-framed canvases, the video gives a strong impression of exaggeration. This, in connection with the soundtrack and the canvases lead me first to think about the expressive effects of baroque art, however then I realized I have to go a step further and approach the work not as a reference to baroque, but rather as a reinterpretation to the ‘camp’ style. The references are to the forms, not to the contents, and the forms are present in a trivialized way. Having the sculptures ‘explode’ is indeed an idea oh so well fit for a Chinese artist, a country where the tastes are very much in favor of over-decorating and everything ‘热闹’ (lively/noisy). Definitely there is an inspiration by the Chinese love for explosives and noises of all kinds (fireworks etc.).

Reading the artwork on a metaphorical level, I believe the main aim is to show the ‘explosive’ growth that the artist’s living environment is going though. I do not only refer to the economic growth but also the explosion in lifestyle and culture that comes with it. The work may be read as a cynical reference by presenting the ‘ultimate spectacle’ with the aim of milking the viewer’s excitement. The repeated climax of the quite short video (about 2 minutes), soon creates a feeling of exhaustion. It is a climax after climax, repeated ad infinitum. There is nowhere else to go. In this sense, the work creates a feeling of instant gratification, followed by a disillusionment and search for the ‘next great pleasure’.



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