Meet the Artist: Zhang Huan

Family Tree 2000, color photograph. 21 ½” x 16 3/4” Larry Warsh

NEW YORK, Sept. 11, 2007 - Zhang Huan talks with Melissa Chiu, Asia Society Museum director, about the phases of his constantly evolving artistic career in Beijing, New York, and Shanghai at Asia Society's Headquarters in New York. In conjunction with the exhibition Altered States: Zhang Huan.


Zhang Huan

Zhang Huan was born in Anyang, Henan, China. He is primarily a performance artist but he also occasionally makes photographs and sculpture. He began his work as part of a small artists' collective known as the "Beijing East Village" located in a rural outpost of the city. The group of friends from art school pioneered this particular brand of performance in China and Zhang was often reprimanded by officials for the perceived inappropriateness of his actions.

Zhang's performances always involve his body in one way or another, usually naked, occasionally involving masochistic actions; he cites the body as a primary method of communication, describing it as the only means by which people experience the world and vice versa. By using quasi-religious ritual, he seeks to discover the point at which the spiritual can manifest via the corporeal. He uses simple repetitive gestures, usually regarded as meaningless work-for-work's-sake chores.

Melissa Chiu

Melissa Chiu is the director of the Museum and Curator for Contemporary Asian and Asian American Art. Ms. Chiu has had a long involvement with Asian contemporary art and is recognized as a leading authority in the field. Prior to the Asia Society, she was the founding Director of the Asia-Australia Arts Centre in Sydney, a non-profit contemporary art center devoted to promoting dialogue in the Asia-Pacific region among artists, writers, curators and filmmakers. Additionally, Ms. Chiu has curated over thirty exhibitions with artists from Malaysia, Vietnam, China, Thailand and Japan, among others.

Melissa Chiu received her B.A. from the University of Western Sydney and her M.A. from the College of Fine Arts, University of South Wales. She has completed her Ph.D. from the University of Western Sydney, for her work on contemporary Chinese artists.

An author of artist monographs and conference papers, she has published widely in journals, magazines and for exhibition catalogues. She was recently awarded a Getty Curatorial Research Fellowship for her work on an upcoming exhibition on the art of the Cultural Revolution and its contemporary legacy. Ms. Chiu was asked by Oxford University Press to edit The Grove Dictionary of Art edition on Asian contemporary art and has been a faculty member of the Rhode Island School of Design where she taught Asian contemporary art and design. She has served on a number of boards and grant panels, including the New York State Council on the Arts, Museums Grant Committee and the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs.