ZHANG WEI

Zhang Wei was born in Shangluo city, Shaanxi province, China in 1977. He lives and works in Beijing, and his work has been exhibited at Centre de la Photographie, Geneva; Power Station of Art, Shanghai; Shanghai Center of Photography; Moscow Museum of Modern Art and the Museum of Art, Guangzhou. Zhang Wei once was a painter, but in recent years he has chosen photography. He is a creator of fictional images through photographs rather than a photographer. No matter how documentary the photos or videos are, they are not objective themselves, because the lens is full of limitations from machinery and human beings, and the productive technique of an image is just the substitute or the virtual image of the objective image after all. However, because photographic pictures are closer to objective images, they are more “real” than paintings, and also more convenient and efficient than paintings.

Artificial Theater - Profile Portraits of Unknown Women

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. 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 favourite 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.

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