Chen Zhen

 Daily Incantations/lncantations quotidiennes
October 5 - November 24, 1996
11e edition of the Cent jours d'art contemporain de Montréal


Chen Zhen is one of the most important artists of the Chinese avant-garde. He was born in Shanghai in 1955, and has lived in Paris since 1986. He experienced the Cultural Revolution in his adolescence, the Reform Period in his twenties, and occidental culture in his thirties. This combination of unique and diverse experiences is reflected in his work, which is characterised by the juxtaposition of traditional and contemporary elements. Consequently, aspects of both Chinese and occidental culture are present in his work. The artist explores the notion of cultural identity in the current context of the extension of consumer society to a planetary scale.

The installation presented by the Centre international d'art contemporain de Montréal, Daily Incantations, is comprised of 101 Chinese chamber pots retrieved by the artist and his friends in the streets of Shanghai. These pots are suspended like bells from a structure similar to a stadium, recalling an ancient Chinese musical instrument. A large scale globe is placed in the center of the structure, which is completely covered by old radio and television sets, as well as by telephones and other electronic communication debris. Speakers installed inside each of the pots diffuse the sound characteristic of the ritual cleaning of these pots, just as it is carried out by Chinese women every day in a traditional manner*.


*translated excerpt from the French text by Claude Gosselin which accompanied the exhibition.