Zhu Fadong

b. 1960, Dongchuan village, Yunnan
Performance and conceptual artist
Before entering the Yunnan Academy of Fine Arts, Zhu Fadong was an amateur painter earning a living as a farmer and gardener. After graduating in 1985, Zhu got a job as an editor in Zhaotong, but soon left his native region to seek his fortune in Haikou (Hainan) as part of the large economic migration then taking place as a result of reform, a phenomenon which raised questions to the artist about the dispersion of collective identity and personal values. Consequently, in Zhu Fadong’s work the artist’s ‘state of being’ becomes both subject and medium of the art itself, and the act of performing visualizes the chronicling of the search for a lost Self. In his first paintings—Black Square (1990) and Missing Missing (1993), for example—the canvas is filled with personal ads, notices of missing people, and abstract human silhouettes reduced to minimal graphic lines. In Big Business Card (1993) and Looking for a Missing Person (1993) Zhu Fadong’s ID photo and words, cut out from magazines, are printed on commercial posters and hung here and there on the walls of Kunming, expanding the piece from ‘himself to society’.
Among other projects is the video This Person is For Sale (1994), realized in cooperation with Zhang Xuejun, who filmed Zhu’s walks through Beijing dressed in a Mao jacket that bore a rectangular piece of white cloth on the back with the sentence ‘This Person Is For Sale, Price Negotiable’—a reminder of the status of migrating peasant workers in the urban environment. Zhu Fadong has performed in Shanghai, Nanjing and major Chinese cities in Hunan and Yunnan, and has been featured in various shows: ‘It’s Me! A Profile of Chinese Contemporary Art in the 1990s’ at the Tai Miao in the Forbidden City, Beijing (1998); Transience: Chinese Experimental Art at the End of the Twentieth Century’ at the University of Chicago and USA (1999); ‘Documentation of China Avant-Garde Artists’ at the Fukuoka Museum of Art in Japan (2000); and ‘Money Funny Money’, Taikang Building, Beijing (2001).
‘Jinri xianfen: Shiyan yishujia Zhu Fadong Zhuang Hui tanhua’ [Today’s Pioneers: A Conversation Between Zhu Fadong and Zhuang Hui] (ms, Beijing, 16 November).
Jia, Wei (1994). ‘Xingwei de meili. Ji yishujia Zhu Fadong’ [The Power of Action. On the Artist Zhu Fadong]. Shidai fengcai [Modern Elegance] 43:43–5.
Wu, Hong (1999). ‘State of Being’. In idem (ed.), Transience: Chinese Experimental Art at the End of the Twentieth Century. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 137–41.
Yang, Alice (1998). ‘Beyond Nation and Tradition: Art in Post-Mao China’. In Why Asia? Contemporary Asian and Asian-American Art. New York: New York University, 107–18.

Encyclopedia of contemporary Chinese culture. . 2011.

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