Indefinable Wang Jianwei


“People are aware that artistically between the 1950s and the early 1980s China was closed to the outside world, but realistically, we were also closed internally.”


 Wang Jianwei

Standing in the middle of Wang Jianwei’s main studio, an expansive 6,000- square-foot room with an arched ceiling that brings the structure to well over two stories in height, I feel as if I’m on the set of a science fiction movie.

I’m surrounded by several molded white plastic objects – large objects – some in the form of amorphic shapes with protruding tubes and mechanical equipment; some in the representational forms of capsules holding space-suited figures resembling humans. Lined up against one wall are four tall figures, wrapped mummy-like in sheets of plastic. Then there are the aliens – featureless, with limbs bent in severe poses. On another wall hang still photographs in a storyboard arrangement. All of these objects are from installations Jianwei has created to accompany his videos, some of which were undoubtedly produced in this building.

If it were not for these disparate elements that are inherent to Jianwei’s installations like Symptom and Hostage, he might simply be considered one of China’s most prominent “video” artists. Instead, he defies description.

 Symptom, 2007.

1   2