Zheng Lianjie, Beijing - China; New York - USA



Performance and installation Art by ZHENG Lianjie

For seventeen days in the fall of 1993, New York-based Chinese performance artist Zheng Lianjie (last name Zheng) carried out a series of performance and installation works called “Huge Explosion: Binding the Lost Souls.” The background for his works was the Si Ma Tai site of the Great Wall (built between 1569-1573 in the Ming Dynasty), known for its varied architectural styles and dangerous slopes. Zheng completed the following four performance/installation pieces between September 21 and October 7: Memory Loss, Black Cola, Cavern-Strategy, and Huge Explosion (an environmental performance and installation work).

Zheng spent more than six months planning and preparing for this artistic project, including making numerous visits to the project site. He organized a team of 11 people to assist him during the 17 days they spent in the mountains. With the help of dozens of local farmers, university students, and international friends, Zheng and his assistants gathered more than 10,000 broken bricks from the grass along the foot of the wall, and carried them up to the top of the wall. There, they used 300 meters of red cloth to wrap the bricks, and scattered them along the slopes of the wall stretching a distance of more than 300 meters between three fire towers to create a magnificent and solemn scene of pounding intensity.

Chinese and international art critics and the media hailed Zheng’s work as “stunning and epic,” describing it as the single-most important work of contemporary Chinese performance art since 1989. The Beijing authorities were very critcal of the work, and quickly mobilized to suppress it’s publicity. The color edition of Beijing Art News covered “Huge Explosion” on its front page (including a large photo), an act which the Ministry of Culture and Propaganda department of the municipal government cited as grounds for banning the publication altogether. Likewise, all television coverage of the works were banned, and the press conference and reception sponsored by the Beijing Friendship Hotel was canceled by the authorities.

Photos of these four performance and installation works were collected by the Xinhua Archives (China), Japan Associated Press, and GAMMA Press (US). In addition, newspapers and magazines in several countries around the world covered Zheng’s performance piece. During the course of this series of works, Zheng also carried out several experimental works in the nude (almost unheard of in China at that time).

Photographers for this series were Li Wenming, Li Yongsheng, Cui Zun, Sun Zhaozeng, Lin Qinggang, Yu Xiangjun, Wang Zemin, Dou Haijun, and Chen Chanfen, with Bi Jianfeng, Li Xiaoming, Wang Yamin, and Li Yongsheng recording video.

Zheng’s assistants were Li Wenming, Li Yongsheng, Cui Jun, Sun Zhaozeng, Lin Qinggang, Du Haofu, Wang Pengbo, Gong Zhanwang, He Luoxian, Chen Liuquan, An Bangtao, Li Xiurong, and Xu Yanhong.

Special thanks to the villagers of Dongpo village, Gangfang District, Bakeshenying Town, Hebei province; the administrative bureau of the Great wall SiMaTai site; Beijing’s MuLinSen International Advertising Company, Limited; the Beijing Friendship Hotel; Du Pin ;Ms, Wang Yiyan; Li Yefu; and Chen Liuquan.

(All names are listed in Chinese order - with surnames first.)

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last changed: 26. 03. 2021