Zhang Xiao

b. 1981, Yantai, Shandong Province, China

Zhang Xiao’s works between 2006 and 2013 often reveal his unique understanding of today’s China and a sense of surrealism that precisely capture the absurdity in the country due to rampant economic changes. The snapshot aesthetic and adoption of ordinary people from daily settings as protagonists are the common threads through his two iconic series They and Coastline.

Zhang's works from 2012 to present mark his shifting focus from the portrayal of life in contemporary China in his previous series Coastline (2009-2013) and They (2006-2008) to reflections on his homecoming, and the experiences and presences that surround it. It also demonstrates the artist's use of a wider range of media in his creative repertoire.

About Karaoke 
Zhang Xiao’s latest work Karaoke is comprised by seven old Karaoke VHS tapes from the 1990s. The artist extracted the most memorable scene from each Karaoke tape and used the frame as the label for the tape. In addition, he extracted parts of each of the seven Karaoke soundtracks which, when played simultaneously, weave a sonic landscape that reverberates with the past. “In an era isolated from excessive information, a box of cassette tape once carried a lot for us. The seemingly outdated frames and sound are mixed to revitalize the once best moments for us,” Zhang says.

Exhibition details of "PHOTOFAIRS | Shanghai 2016" (9 - 11.9.2016) 
About Since there is a dream 
Since there is a dream (2016) presents fragments of a physical, social and cultural landscape that shifts and blurs in the mind of the mass as well as the artist. A photograph of a Tiananmen Square replica, taken by Zhang in his hometown, was installed onto souvenir wall clocks made for two long-time popular CCTV shows. The installation evokes many Chinese people’s dreams of grandeur that are symbolised by appearing on TV or having a photograph of themselves taken at Tiananmen Square. While these dreams have lost some of their glory through the eras, Zhang’s work highlights the remnants of such dreams that many Chinese still hold on to and their essential fakeness.
Exhibition details of "Art|Basel Hong Kong 2016" (24-26.3.2016)

About Shift
Shift series (2012-15) features instant films taken in his hometown, i.e. Yantai in Shandong province, the black and white photo collage was created through a process of detachment and reassembly that echoes Zhang’s relationship with his hometown. In a delicate and time-consuming process, the artist created the instant film emulsion lifts and manually assembled them into works of photo collage.

About Eldest Sister and Relatives
These two series mark a humorous tribute to the once popular practice of “New Photography” in the rural villages of Northern China. Photo editors, whom the artist calls “travelling folk artists of image”, roamed the villages with their notebook computers and created composite portraits for the villagers. In enlarging these old photos into near life-sized portraits, Zhang resurrects the sense of aesthetics, attitudes and even longing of those who inhabited the Yantai of his early years.

About Home Theater
This mixed media series draws on Zhang’s recollection of watching TV and films on VHS during his childhood, a symbol of luxury in China in the 1990s. The artist selected 6 of his favourite films and TV shows from the 1980s-1990s, and made a screen capture of the most notable scene in each film or show for the label for the VHS tape. The film soundtracks are played simultaneously alongside the exhibit, weaving an intricate web of sounds that denote the re-creation of the bygone eras.

About Living
Living series (2014-15) is a light-hearted portrayal of the reality in today’s China. It features Zhang posing for a photo with presumably the day’s newspaper and imitating those retired elderly who, having moved away from their hometowns where the records of their household registration were made, must provide photographic proof of themselves still living to obtain their pension funds. 

Exhibition details of "About My Hometown" (16.5 - 27.6.2015)
Exhibition details of "Photo Shanghai 2015" (11-13.9.2015)
About the exhibition catalogue
Review: "Zhang Xiao: About My Hometown" by John Batten (A version of this review was originally published in South China Morning Post, 16.6.2015) 

About They
They series (2006-2008) won Zhang the Three Shadows Photography Award in 2010 which first gained him international attention. Taken in Chongqing, the biggest and fastest-growing city in China, the characters in They are the ordinary people in daily life – they carry out all kinds of mundane activities in public venues. In the images, these ordinary people seem departed from reality and entered a performance state. The images perhaps reveal the loss of balance and normality caused by the rapid development of modern Chinese society.
Exhibition details of "They" (8.3 - 5.4.2013)
About the artbook - They

About Coastline 

In Coastline series (2009-2013), Zhang travelled the 18,000 kilometres of coastline of China to photograph the ordinary people’s circumstances in the most developed areas of China. His images of seaside landscape are often infiltrated with bizarre artificial objects or constructions, with people performing different types of random activities. Zhang received The Photography Talent Awards (France) in 2010, the Prix HSBC pour la Photographie in 2011 and the second Hou Dengke Documentary Photography Award in 2009 with this series.
Exhibition details of "Coastline" (10.2 – 10.3.2012)

About the artbook - Coastline

Artist Statement - Since there is a dream
Essay: "From Coastline to Hometown - On Zhang Xiao's Artistic Creation and Its Shift" by Gu Zheng
Essay: "The Macro and the Micro Worlds in the Photography of Zhang Xiao" by Mimi Chun

Artist Biography

Media coverage (South China Morning Post, 16.6.2015)
Media coverage (International New York Times, 29.5.2015)
Media coverage (Wall Street International, 16.5.2015)
Media coverage (South China Morning Post - 48 Hours, 14.5.2015)
Media coverage (Time, 10.2.2012)