Zhu Xiang was born in Dianbai in 1991 and graduated from the Oil Painting Department of Guangzhou Academy of Fine Arts. She currently lives and works in Guangzhou.
Solo exhibition: W.A.S.T.E (2017, Guangzhou, Findart); “Did you take a photo today?/Community Memory” program exhibition (2019, Guangzhou, You and Me Space).
Group Exhibitions: Tweet and Tweet-Art Camp (2019, Shenzhen, Pingshan Art Museum); Gazetteer-Novel’s Joint Residency Group Exhibition (Fold Of The Bell Tower, 2019, Xi’an, Bishan Crafts Cooperatives / BJOY LIBRARY-Gazetteer-Novel Joint Exhibition, 2019, Xiamen BJOYSpace); Inside-Out Practice/Stacks of Paper·Riot of Color: The politics of Taste (2018, Beijing, Inside-Out Art Museum); There are volcanoes under the sea (2018, Beijing, BLG LAB ), etc.
Residency: Gazetteer-Novel Joint Residency Program (2019, Shapowei, Xiamen); 2020 Goethe-Institut x Cache Space Residency (2020, Beijing, Cache Space).
In 2019, she joined Xinzao Collective and started to work in association with Making Space. The discussion and inspiration she got from the collective have also provided her with a new method of learning. It has long been a central theme of her practice to act as a “chiffonnier” in the gap between history and fiction, and to speak out when facing the “memory panic” of individual life stories. In recent years, she has been researching her “family history” and revisiting the conflicts, blanks, and errors of memory, rather than the well-told stories in the context of a bigger history. She tries, at the same time, to work on memory in connection with individuals, including oral history documentation, community-based activities, workshops, city walks, etc.
The close relationship with individuals and places is layered and fluid like a basin, she believes that to resist the forgetting, which needs to be excavated from the unarchivable, to walked through the thick fog surrounding her, and continued to discover and imagine from the engulfing.
Rethinking the Void, Inaccuracy and Forgetfulness
It seems that when we encounter themes of history and memory, family history is more visible and accessible to us, but I am not optimistic about this because the past has been forgotten – under the influence of power, how and at what speed would memory be constructed and forgotten? I try to rethink the void, inaccuracy and forgetfulness of the Cultural Revolution history in the context of my project Family History of the Unknown.
#In the process of organising and discovering: As a latecomer, when I look back at these ‘family memories’, I need to understand how the written words and oral expressions of family members were generated in a specific historical context. When each application had to be submitted to the local government for approval, the relatives had to be ‘careful’ in writing their memories. The manuscripts are only about my mother’s family. I pay a lot of attention to my grandma’s role, she is both the memory keeper and writer, and as a survivor of a broken family. There is no material about my grandfather on my father’s side.
○ Scan the surviving manuscript materials [letters, diaries, political documents, etc.] and turn them into digital files. Pay attention to the details of words and emotions, including the contents of the scrap paper, instead of just treating it as reading material and distinguishing what is not important;
○ In the absence of surviving material, apart from listening to the relatives, try to visit the places where the deceased once lived and worked. When you find relevant interviewee, you can prepare maps, photos and written materials of the area, as most historical images and information are no longer available in those village towns, try to collect similar ones.
After the historical movement, the relatives have been rehabilitated, but these so-called ‘historical memories’ were actually fragmented because they had to be submitted to the official for verification. In the historical narrative of authority, the suppression of personal memories and emotions is often ignored. Apart from researching family history, I have a plan that may go beyond my capacity – in general, there is a lack of local information on the mass killings in the villages during the Cultural Revolution, and I will be collecting oral history of those clashes of arms in my hometown.
○ Allow yourself to plan beyond your capacity and take your time to learn;
○ Most of the interviewees in the village towns need to be connected by acquaintances on a point-to-point basis, which is a slow process for me now;
○ During the interview，I remind myself that the ‘harm’ to the participant will not occur, the practice of dialogue should be relaxing and evocative, not a forced question;
○ To maintain a relaxing interview environment as possible, sometimes it is not the perfect interview setting, or you can choose a quieter public place to walk and talk with the interviewee;
○ When interviewing, listen and chat first, rather than turning on the camera in the beginning.
Walking and Returning: The main walks in the county are planned to be about the places where family members died and the clashes took place, along with a return to the place – ‘Yutoue Bridge’ where Uncle Li died.
○ I believe in ‘intuition’;
○ Walking has also become an important part of the transition from the body to the senses, and I need breathing space outside of records or oral history, which is like a void of time, where ‘strange encounters’ can happen;
○ It is also good to walk with a local interviewee, he/she will identify some locations and describe the past, the sense of unfamiliarity will gradually diminish, and the conversation will be understanding and feeling;
○ I need to return to some locations multiple times.
#Echoing：As an artist, the problem that I often encounter is how to transform the concrete and imaginary visual experience, so that I can share with the viewers, but I also have a kind of selfishness: in the course of my work, the most common conversation I hear from family members, interviewees, and friends is to ask the question of whether or not XX is alive, and it comes to clarity, that works about history is also about the dead. I allow myself to slow down a bit, reflection will make the response slowly appear, remind me what I have to do.
○ I try to maintain a linkage between research and practice in my project;
○ Before I start a relevant creation, I need a period of calmness whenever the walking and data accumulation reaches a node. Perhaps with the complexity and fragmentation of information, working with texts may allow me to find a sense of boundary: what I can do, not what I am in a hurry to do.
I wrote a fictitious letter to my grandmother after my grandfather’s successful escape, two months later, I was shocked that I found a letter in my grandmother’s room that was so identical to my fictional one, the same greetings of concern, also about the children’s marriage issues, the same advice to the children not to participate in the Violent Struggle…
○ Working with history and memory necessarily confronts one’s own emotion in the present moment, and is not intended to be a record of others, there is a saying that I strongly agree with, which is to connect and work with him/her in the stream of time.
In the past 24 months, artmaking has been stagnant because I have not been able to live with my loved one’s illness, and it has really bothered me how to balance my work, because each outburst requires more mental energy to deal with life’s trivialities.
○ Living with ‘illness’ is a longer learning process, there is really no immediate solution;
○ I said that perhaps working with ‘memory’ strengthens my will to live, it sounds like a joke, but I want it to be a perpetual motion machine that constantly supplies me with energy;
○ It is important to be honest with one’s predicament, and to keep a ‘safe exit’- to understand oneself.
Regarding the “Family History of the Unknown” project, I am not writing a “family history”, rather, it focuses on the narrative of the great history, which leads to the blank, loss and error memories, and what traces of the power behind these memories leave behind, which can be analyzed and presented structurally with the void of the current history. Perhaps the first part of the work can only be carried out through walking, writing, video, and oral recordings at the beginning, but not immediately through visualization. What I hope to do is to use my own physical approach to understand and respond to the issues that are being suppressed nowadays.
In parents’ families, there are relatives who died in the 1960s movement, whose descriptions by family members have now become blurred, and there are many clues that can be traced, which by my generation were already in the throes of being obscured. But what I still want to ask is not a definite result, but why the reality exists in this way, the small clues will guide which direction to look, what process will happen, how many doubts and answers will there be I always believe in the power of the “unknown”.
In my mother’s family, I accidentally found out about the diary (1965-1967) of my Uncle Li (Yang Li), a relic that had been kept at my grandmother’s side. Fifty years have passed, and now she no longer remembers her husband or her five children, and spends her days in repetitive actions, but she can no longer tell the “stories” and has forgotten the objects she keeps with her. In this section I will compile manuscripts, letters and other material from the teachers’ staff room where my grandmother lived for the rest of her life, and use this as a starting point to walk through the places where my grandfather and uncle moved: reform through labor, people’s communes, deaths, burials, escape routes and the Local Violent Struggles took place. At the end of his diary, Yang Li wrote down an address: ‘Jiang Sihai, Gate No. 9657, Zhongshan Road, Beijing’. Curiously, “Jiang Sihai” does not look like a real name either, and the name “Zhongshan Road” only existed in the Republic of China – the central section of Tian’anmen Square – and the address points to the center of the political movement……
In my father’s family, there is very little information about my grandfather, and no one in the family can fully explain why he, as a military doctor, followed the Kuomintang south to western Guangdong and did not eventually choose to go to Taiwan or return to his hometown in Henan. My father’s brothers had saved the address of my grandfather’s ancestral home, which none of them had ever visited, and only one local contact (my grandfather’s nephew) had left some years before. My grandfather joined the saltern hospital in the 1950s, and my father, who grew up on the saltern, has spoken more than once about the hard work of making salt, an experience he will never forget. When I returned to the Saltern compound with my father, the scene had changed, but he could still point out that the second level of the sentry post had been removed, saying that it was used to keep an eye on their work. No manuscripts or letters have been found about the grandfather’s past, and his relatives dug up the objects buried in the soil and burnt them all for fear of being implicated. My father, the youngest child, used to say that my grandfather was locked up somewhere in ragged clothes (he used to say it was a cowshed) and that food had been secretly dropped through the hole. When he returned to the scene, my father pointed to the empty concrete floor and confirmed that the area attached to the fence was the third post. The first level of the post held my grandfather, and beyond the fence was the wasteland where he had been executed. When he returned to the scene, my father pointed to the empty concrete floor and confirmed that the area attached to the fence was the third post, the first level of which held my grandfather, and beyond the fence was the barren land where he had been executed.
When I ask what kind of history I have to face to belong to this family, the conflicts, blanks, and errors completely dominate it, and family memories are so easily lost in the writings of the Big History. When history fills in “a good enough story” accurately, then what is lost in the flow of ordinary families, ordinary lives, creates the archive of our present reluctance to reveal the truth, and this is the question to which “Family History of the Unknown” is oriented. The missing language of those who have lived through, in each of us, may appear to be unclear expressions of the past, or falling into resentment, or a careful answer to the problem of history, even if one can judge why the wounds of the past occurred but the imprint of the times still remains in one’s physical behaviour. To sort out history with the help of memories in project actions, but also a reflection on ‘forgetting’ – where is ‘I’? I am not here to record them, but I am in the same stream of time as they are. For the sake of the hidden wounds and lost words, people and people, we need to respond the instinctive understanding and fearlessness.
- 黃康迪 WONG Hong Tik
- 陳毅哲 CHEN Yi Che
- 馮以丹 Edy FUNG
- 李劻華 Khris LEE Hong Wah
- 詹昫嵐 Liv TSIM
- 梁慧欣 LEUNG Wai Yan
- 梅愷盈 MUI Hoi Ying, Carol
- 黎穎虹 LAI Wing Hung
- 張綺君 CHEUNG Yee Kwan, Sonia
- 強天锴 QIANG Tiankai
- 朱建林 ZHU Jianlin
- 鄺詠君 KWONG Wing Kwan
- Iris WONG
- 楊思嘉 Sijia YANG
- 張文智 ZHANG Wenzhi
- 盧韻淇 LO Wan Ki
- 馮靖嵐 FUNG Ching Laam
- 張亦勤 CHEUNG Yick Kan
- 葉雯 Manny YIP
- 無碼計劃 Project NoCode
- 劉菁兒 LAU Ching Yee, Cathleen
- 余榮基 YU Wing Kei, Rik
- 劉暢 LIU Chang
- 陳翠雯 CHAN Chui Man
- 許芷瑋 HUI Gi-Wai, Echo
- 譚綽琳 TAM Cheuk Lam, Jessie
- 鄭天依 ZHENG Tianyi
- 王昱珊 WONG Yuk Shan
- 李曉巧 LI Xiaoqiao
- 屈鍵晴 WAT Kin Ching
- 劉清華 LAU Ching Wa, Jess
- 曾淑芬 TSANG Shuk Fan, Tracy
- 張紫茵 Dorothy CHEUNG
- 林琬晴 LAM Yuen Ching, Esther
- 彭景 PENG Jing
- 馮以力 FUNG Yee Lick, Eric
- 張家樺 Janice CHEUNG
- 鄧廣燊及袁雅芝 TANG Kwong San & YUEN Nga Chi
- 潘美義 POON Mei Yee
- 徐然 XU Ran
- Florence LAM
- 朱穎琳 CHU Wing Lam, Kelly
- 黃姬雪 WONG Kei Suet, Ice
- 余淑培 YU Shuk Pui, Bobby
- 鄧卓敏 TANG Cheuk Man, Penelope
- 李珮瀅 LEE Pui Ying, Hiya
- 吳咏詩 Wing Sze NG
- 張國樑 Weera It ITTITEERARAK
- 黃詩慧 WONG Sze Wai
- 鄭裕林 CHANG Yue Lam
- 鄭虹 CHENG Hung, Dony
- 陳庭 CHAN Ting
- 馮倚天 FUNG Yee Tin, Thomas
- 譚敏晴 TAM Man Ching, Michelle
- 朱湘 ZHU Xiang
- 程新皓 CHENG Xinhao
- 沈軍 SHEN Jun
- 梁望琛 LEUNG Mong Sum, Joseph
- 李繼忠 LEE Kai Chung
無名者的家庭史/帶著楊理的照片行走“中山路”，攝於天安門，2020 Family History of the Unknown / Walking on Zhongshan Road with Yang Li’s photograph, Tian’anmen Square, 2020
楊理在日記最後寫下地址：江似海，北京市中山路9567號門牌 攝於北京天安門 2020
Family photo in the pill box,Grandpa、Grandma and five children “Zhen, Li,Yong,Yuan,Cun ( it means “The truth is forever” )
The “Yutou’e Crossing Bridge” where the Violent Struggles took place, now the Gongqing River under the bridge is building its embankment. In the oral accounts of witnesses, countless corpses died on the road at the time.The Si Pai massacred the captured members of the He Pai at the bridge, Aad according to official records “the He Pai was killed only 30 people”.Yang Li died on this bridge, but his body was not recovered.
鹽場的某個院落，在毛時代曾用來招待越南人達到粵西學習和考察製鹽。住在院落的居民說，當時為了照顧這些越南高官子弟，請了縣內最好的廚師給他們做飯。One of the courtyards at the Saltern was once used to entertain Vietnamese who came to western Guangdong to learn and investigate salt production during the Mao era. Residents of the compound said that the best cooks in the county were hired to cook for the children of these high-ranking Vietnamese officials.