Photography by Zhang Wei
Published by Jiazazhi Press
Limited Edition: 500, numbered and signed.
Size: 230mm x 310mm x 25mm, 108 pages, 42 pictures, with 2 posters
Clothbound Hardcover. Published in September 2014
All works in this series were not taken directly by a camera. In the last two years he mixed the parts of ordinary faces in his old portrait series to collage new faces of famous people. This series, which discussed human identity, was inspired by Zhang Wei’s favorite Japanese game “Artificial Girl”.
Many people may think these works are related to politics. However in fact, these are reproduction of Zhang’s personal experience and memories about the times. Every portrait in this series, Hitler, Obama, Aung San Suu Kyi, Momoe Yamaguchi or John Lennon, appeared often in Chinese people’s normal talks.
My theater complex came from my home. I live in a theater's courtyard filled with playing and watching. The theater life enriched my knowledge about various roles at all times and in all countries. Time was changing the opera gradually. The pop, fashion and foreign elements were added into the traditional, local and folk culture and art, showing a hybrid, absurd and disordered fast-food aesthetic. This aesthetic touched the cultural bottom line and my experience edge, but I wanted to explore it. Such a change occurs not only in the theater, but in every corner of the times. In the beginning of creating Artificial Theater my objective was to clarify this change.
Talking about how to create the series I must go back to 2007, when I finished the series Temporary Performers. During the creation, I collected more than 300 ordinary Chinese faces. In 2008, I met a Japanese computer game "Artificial Girl 3", which was a 3D 18X love game created by ILLUSION. The experiences in the two years brought me an idea, creating a virtual person, even a world.
In real life, people who are eager for success often get frustrated by the failures, however, the virtual network game can bring players through identities a successful experience. The game starts from a basic identity "people", for whom you can set the gender, the general shape, and the personality. Likewise, I virtualized the identities in Temporary Performers and used them in an exaggerated way to create myth-like roles for the new series. By diluting the performers' original identities I made their performances more absurd. Borrowing the virtualizing method in computer game, I selected my favorite figures for the performers to play. I assembled and collaged the parts of the real ordinary performers' bodies, using the tiny similarities between them and classical figures, including the skin, hair and other details. Through artificial exchange, hundreds of performers' original true images disappeared, showing new virtual portraits. Not as carriers of "soul or spirit"any more, these portraits known by everybody became figurative schemata, feeling like materialized variations.
The whole process is a hypothesis, but for spirit it's a real experience. I also try to warn people, through these cold faces after tampering and processing, that in fact, everybody in the society is playing his role, but this playing is superficial, temporary, or even meaningless. I won't judge these virtual images ideologically, because they may present a way of differance. The body, as the carrier of soul, is linking the inside and outside world by every act and every move. The presentation in Artificial Theater has been broken and combined again, and if you want to explore the truth, you may only find shadows on the rock.
ABOUT THE ARTIST
Zhang Wei was born in 1977 in Shangluo, Shaanxi Province. He now lives in Beijing. He was nominated by the 2009 Sovereign Asian Art Prize, and won the 2010 Annual International Fashion New Artist Award of Global Times; the TOP 20 Chinese Contemporary Photo Award in 2011; the New Photographer of the Year in 2013.