About Family Tree by Zhang Huan
Family Tree is a performance piece by Chinese artist Zhang Huan. Three calligraphers wrote a combination of names known to Zhang Huan, personal stories, learned tales and random thoughts on Zhang’s face.
In Zhang Huan’s words
I have been feeling pain on the left side of my chest for over a year, which lately seems to have gotten worse. I sense an ill omen and am afraid that something unpredictable might happen.
When a mother squeezes out the last bit of her energy, a new life eventually emerges. There are numerous events in our lives over which we have no control.
More culture is slowly smothering us and turning our faces black. It is impossible to take away your inborn blood and personality. From a shadow in the morning, then suddenly into the dark night, the first cry of life to a white-haired man, standing lonely in front of window, a last peek of the world and a remembrance of an illusory life.
In my serial self-portrait I found a world which Rembrandt forgot. I am trying to extend his moment.
I invited 3 calligraphers to write texts on my face from early morning until night. I told them what they should write and to always keep a serious attitude when writing the texts even when my face turns to dark. My face followed the daylight until it slowly darkened. I cannot tell who I am. My identity has disappeared.
This work speaks about a family story, a spirit of family. In the middle of my forehead, the text means “Move the Mountain by Fool (Yu Kong Yi Shan)”. This traditional Chinese story is known by all common people, it is about determination and challenge. If you really want to do something, then it could really happen. Other texts are about human fate, like a kind of divination. Your eyes, nose, mouth, ears, cheekbone, and moles indicate your future, wealth, sex, disease, etc. I always feel that some mysterious fate surrounds human life which you can do nothing about, you can do nothing to control it, it just happened.
About Zhang Huan
Zhang Huan (b. 1965, China) is a Chinese visual artist. He has had numerous gallery and museum exhibitions, including at the J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center and at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. The layers of ideas the artist explored in his early performance art, conceived of as existential explorations and social commentaries, have carried through to the more traditional studio practice he embraced upon moving to Shanghai in 2005, after living and working for eight years in New York City.
Photos of Family Tree