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Zhu Yu was born in Liushi Town, China in 1981. She graduated from the Video Art Department of the Central Academy of Fine Arts of China in 2008, and now splits her time and work between Beijing, Wenzhou and Europe. Zhu’s principal mediums are video, installation and photography, with ‘moveable maps’ being her current artistic orientation. Her social upbringing, interpreted as a meridian, acts as a coordinate with Liushi being her latitude of cognition. The artist says her works resemble the search for markers and the re-labelling of them in a misty forest. In Liushi 90% of the residents are engaged in manufacturing electrical appliances which are exported around the world. The ideological mindset of this community has undergone enormous change over the years, but this special geographical environment regularly triggers sensitive emotions for Zhu Yu, and her artistic motifs often portray the rapid industrialization, the masses, and the children’s misplaced memory of factory production lines in the city.
Zhu’s departure from reality, the void and the passive, allow her to analyse their historical roots and the current mechanical and networked/digitised shadows, or the reversal thereof. The questioning of human beings as either individuals or collectives clearly appears in her voice-based work ‘Nobody is Somebody’. Through the substitution, repetition, and iteration of the subject and the object in this sentence, Nobody and Somebody constitutes an endless inquiry into identity and power, and even questions a more ontological analysis of existence. More often than not, the artist avoids resorting to language or texts in her works. Instead, she places her body in an external environment as a way of radically juxtapositioning and extending their meaning.
In ‘Wave’, the artist suffuses repetitive shaking head gestures in different contexts with the meaning of this behaviour, which naturally varies from time to time. In her new work ‘UTC-5’, the artist, who appears invisible, travels around to places such as Tibet, Beijing and New York where her identity disappears in the juxtaposition of different time zones and spaces, with her body turning into a axis that connects these places. This forms a metaphor for the collective existence of the contemporary world by condensing the elements of religion, industry, and transnational relations. What cannot be ignored is the use of music in Zhu’s works. These tailor-made background sounds correlate with the visual element and the moving image from religion to nature, and from cities to the world. When collaborating with other artists, Zhu Yu’s radical juxtaposition is infused with yet more layers. For example, in her work ‘Male Body Machine’, questions of the individual are extended to the proposition of new potential human/machine relationships. In ‘Game of Kings: Contemporary War’, a violent game between Zhu Yu and her co-artist, a state of revolution is reflected in the breaching of rules, but the work itself is made via a communal approach, not a violent one. Behind the production mode based on negotiation, there seems to lurk the imagination of an alternative social possibility.
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