The Front View of an Apartment Building

Zhang Peili


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video (colour, silent)
24 min 8 sec
Zhang Peili produced what is generally acknowledged to be the first video work in China in 1988; ‘30 x 30’ is a deliberately banal video of the artist’s gloved hands repeatedly breaking and gluing together a mirror, shot on a borrowed video camera on the longest videotape format then available. Together with other pioneering artists working in time-based artforms and new media, his work has been of undisputed significance in bringing world attention to the energy, ambition and innovation of Chinese contemporary art. Yet Zhang has always deliberately sought to separate himself from mainstream practices, continually questioning the commodification of art and the sentimentality of cinema and television. His work has often focused on the repetition of everyday, routine actions: by forcing us to examine these more closely, Zhang introduces subtle critiques of power and authority. He has continued to experiment and innovate for more than four decades, influencing new generations of artists. Shown in late 2018 at Beijing’s Boers-Li Gallery in his solo exhibition, ‘Now That’, Zhang Peili’s Front View of an Apartment Building reprises many of the themes found in his earlier works, from its deadpan aesthetic to its demand for viewer patience. A continuous video recording shot from a fixed position presents a front and centre view of a residential apartment building. With very subtle happenings taking place on its high definition viewing device over the duration of the video, Zhang places the viewer in the role of one enacting surveillance. He presents moments of daily life, apparently banal, but invested with greater significance and a requirement to examine them closely. The apartment building, on its surface a dreary modernist grid that signifies collectivism, in fact holds within it the differing lives, hopes and aspirations of its individual inhabitations, indicated here only by the succession of windows or by washing draped over balcony railings.
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