Single channel video installation, 24' 2006
The documentary film "18 Days" (2006) records an eighteen-days trip the Chinese artist Xu Zhen (b.1977) underwent in collaboration with three of his friends. The conquerous goal of the trip was to invade and cross the boundary line between China and its neighbouring countries Russia, Mongolia and Myanmar with remote controlled weapons–toy weapons.
Throughout the film a cameraman meticulously documents the prepatory work done prior to the trip. Simultanously a voice-over accounts the action performed, i.e. the purchasing of a car and replica toy weapons, the planning of the route through China, and-finally-the attempted border crossings. The excursion itself turns out to be a tour-de –force of breakdowns right until the mischiefs, after previous unsuccessful attemts, finally enter the border of Myanmar with their initative weapons. Situating himself as a victorious ontruder at this present juncture of successful conquer, Xu Zhen speaks equivocally to us. And as if poised to sabotage his own final victory, we are once again reminded that his ambigious goal was achieved via mock-up weapons and replica... With this, Xu Zhen brilliantly dramatizes and rejects the representational transperancy often assumed within documentary's framework of truthfulness. The film "18 Days" seem to playfully minic or pirate the flexibility of its wery own frame.
Accordingly, a full-size hermetically locked shipping container is blocking the immediate entrance to the projected documentary film. The shipping crate is laden with signs of exclusivism, although complete with inventory list of all devices related to the execution of the eighteen-days trip: including the xehicle used for transportation, road maps, and the remote controlled weapons among various other things. Herewith, the brilliantly executed installation "18 Days" combines an imposing sculptural presence with an instance of the unexpected. The project demonstrates not only the fictional basis of reality, but the reality of fiction. And the questions of the true content of the shipping container, as well as the documentary film, remain.
The obstructive exclusiveness not only plays with our questioning the actual content of the shipping crate, but also obscures the manageably marketable ast object perse. What you see is what you get. And, here, the objects of affection are disconcertingly absent. Albeit humorously provoking reactions and clashing sensibilities over image, form and strayegy.
Xu Zhen (1977) lives and works in Shanghai. He was invited to the 49th Venice Biennale and has since exhibited his works widely. Recent exhibitions include THE Real Thing-Contemporary Art from China. Tate Live (pool.2007), China Power Station: Part 1, Battersea Power Station, (London UK, 2006). On Mobility, De Appel, (Amsterdam. The Netherlands, 2006). China Contemporary – Art, Architecture and Visual Culture. Museum Boijmanns van Beuningen (Rotterdam. 2006). The Thirteen – Chinese Video Now. PS1 Contemporary Art Center (New York, 2006).