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Tate 'The Real Thing' on Geng Jianyi work there


One of the most interesting conceptual artists at work in China today, Geng Jianyi is not content to accept anything at face value. It is not arrogance, but uncertainty born of curiosity that leads him to question the world he inhabits, its customs and rituals, as much as the art he makes.
Identity has been one of the most important subjects for artists in China, and is a subject Jianyi has analysed for almost two decades. This work explores the effect of consciousness upon the largely unconscious and familiar actions that come to define us. The work focuses on the behaviour of four people in a foot massage parlour, captured on film by six CCTV cameras. Jianyi then wrote a script for each of the six scenes recorded, based upon the actions of the four people in the footage, for them to learn so that they could re-enact their original behaviour. Divided into three groups of six screens, the work shows the unconscious footage and the rehearsed action, with the script. The act of observing the conscious recreation of a set of unconscious actions undermines the sense of self constructed through habit, which is as funny as it is profoundly unsettling.

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