Transience: Chinese Experimental Art at the End of the Twentieth Century is a thoughtful and tightly focused exploration of certain themes ― “Demystification”, “Ruins”, and “Transience” ― which Wu Hung (curator of the exhibition) has identified as critical to a broader understanding of artistic production in China now. It is through this focused approach, we believe, that Western audiences can better develop a contextualized understanding to an international discourse about the nature of contemporary art in this postmodern age. In its focus on individual artists, their lives, and career trajectories, and on close readings of individual works, all in the context of the exhibition’s organizing themes, “Transience” constitutes a new voice in the current fast-paced discussion about contemporary Chinese artistic practice and its place in a broader, post-national scheme of cultural understanding.’ ― Director of the David and Alfred Smart Museum of Art, the University of Chicago

Revised edition of the catalogue published in conjunction with the exhibition. It includes a checklist of the exhibits, a selected bibliography and a glossary of Chinese names and terms. Biographies of the artists and a survey of contemporary Chinese art are provided in the appendixes.

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INTRODUCTION: Pushing the Limits - Chinese Experimental Art from 1979 to 1999


Counter-Monument: Xu Bing, Ghosts Pounding the Wall

Anti-Writing: Wenda Gu, Pseudo Seal-Script

Nothing Beyond the Gate: Zhang Hongtu, Studs

Mao Revisited: Xing Danwen, Born with the Cultural Revolution

Still Breathing: Song Dong, Breathing

Remembering: Mo Yi, Made by the Police Department 1 and 2

Silence: Sui Jianguo, Earthly Force

Representing the Ordinary: Yu Fan, My Mother



Rotten Red: Cai Jin, Beauty Banana Plant No. 48

Fragmentation as Creation: Shi Chong, The Stage

Human Waste: Yuan Dongping, Sisters

Speaking the Unspeakable: Zhang Huan, 12 Square Meters

Demolition Project: Zhan Wang, Temptation

Ruin Pictures: Rong Rong, Untitled

Sealed Memory: Yin Xiuzhen, Suitcase


Surface: Zhan Wang, Ornamental Rock

State of Being: Zhu Fadong, This Person Is For Sale

Zero Gravity: Yu Hong, Flying

Interior Time/Space: Zeng Hao, 5:00 p.m. in the Afternoon

Translucency: Wang Jin, A Chinese Dream

Fallen Angels: Liu Zheng, Peking Opera Scenes

Invisibility: Qiu Zhijie, Tattoo 1 and 2

CODA: A Brief Reflection on the Study of Contemporary Chinese Experimental Art


- Kris Imants ERCUMS

Appendix One: Biographies of the Artists

Appendix Two: A Survey of Contemporary Chinese Art

Transience: Chinese Experimental Art at the End of the Twentieth Century
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Transience: Chinese Experimental Art at the End of the Twentieth Century (Revised Edition)

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