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In Conversation: Jiujian Zeng

Artist Jiujian Zeng is a visual artist based in China. He regards all mediums as channels to bridge matter and consciousness in his practice. Skepticism and insecurities about the objective world have led him to use art as a means of traveling inside and constructing himself. How to re-project the new historical perspectives from the present perception, which is derived from an individual or collective historical experiences, is also a long-standing subject of his focus.

Jiujian believes that traditional museums reveal to mankind that all history is contemporary history, and all contemporary culture is a relic of the metamorphosis of history. It is a brutally exposed display of material archaeology; archaeology itself is a violent dissection of the sedimentation of history, and the exhibition is the production of specimens for history. And the revision of history itself is involved in the projection and construction of a discourse of the future, where the past and the future are connected through the cause and effect of material creation.

Humanity interprets and insinuates particular histories according to the needs of the present, and the histories within our gaze are merely fillers for the gaps we have in the present. As a reflection of history, post-mythic narratives grow in the overlapping cultural landscapes of the world, following the fluidity of history and flowing in all directions. The current Internet medium is turning the world into a giant museum, and all history will eventually become moving mountains in the course of time.


Q: You brought up a very interesting statement: "The current Internet medium is turning the world into a giant museum, and all history will eventually become moving mountains in the course of time." What inspired you to use mountains as a metaphor of histories?

Jiujian: This is related to my view of history. Although individuals are insignificant in the torrent of history, the ecology of social history is composed of countless individuals. The superposition of countless tiny individual choices forms inertia and ultimately affects the flow of the times. direction. In geology, however, life gradually changes the structure and even the direction of historical mountain ranges over a long period of hundreds of millions of years; mountains carry life and move slowly as a result. The ecosphere transforms the objective material world, just as our current cognition and practice promote the extension of the future.


When do clouds land

Soap, UV resin, electroplated metallic paint, aluminum, digital print, zinc alloy, polyester

300 x 90 x 50 cm


For the cloud chaser, the journey is long and the road ahead is invisible. Facing the changing weather, the stride takes more than one step, just as the windless day will never arrive.

The Parable of Narcissus

Soap, oil, UV resin, electroplated metallic paint, plaster, wood, digital print

Dimensions variable


When discussing the myth of Narcissus, McLuhan pointed out a common mistake: people say that Narcissus was narcissistic. In fact, Narcissus was not destroyed by seeing the reflection of his image. The numbing effect of technology destroyed him, and by the same token, the users of mediums fell into a coma because of this numbness. Technology creates a new environment, which causes pain, and the body's nervous system "shuts down" to block the pain. The name Narcissus comes from the Greek word narcosis, meaning numbness.

Thus, the extreme alienation and numbness of human beings are virtually the same as death itself, which is the disappearance of humanity. In this regard, when working with the technological medium, it is essential to understand not only the new technology itself and how it relates to us to our physical, sensory, and psychological equilibrium but also how the medium transforms humanity. The Key is to perceive mediums in the present beyond historical limits.


Q: This series of works seems to reflect a curatorial attempt. How are these works connected to one another? And how would you like your audience to view these works?

Jiujian: I will see the creation and presentation in this series as my "archaeological practice". The whole process is not history-making in the general sense but follows the ideology and social cognition I have experienced to complete the exploration and growth of the logic behind the existing contemporary symbols and phenomena. The "history" carried by my different works is more like the projection of the present to the future.

In addition, my intervention with the audience is not predetermined. All the feedback from the audience is real and reasonable to me. In this way, I can use the unknown feedback to create more unknowns.



UV resin, stainless steel

70 x 120 x 22.8 cm


As humans begin to domesticate animals, animals in the man-made environment are constantly and passively shaped by intergenerational selections into the optimal solution that best meets the needs of current human society. The environment transforms species and species transform the environment; the means of production evolve and the progress of industrialisation speeds up. How far must we break away from nature to be able to redefine it?


Soap, oil, UV resin, electroplated metallic paint, stainless steel

32 x 23 x 24 cm


In the context of the great geographic discoveries, with extensions of the boundaries of human existence and writings of the history of colonisation, we refined human knowledge of the inner in the form of explorations. As well as revealing potential new frontiers, the human desire for the unknown is a progressive fluid.


Q: What makes you interested in these themes of museums, histories, and humanity? Correct me if I made the wrong assumption.

Jiujian: "Making artifacts that reflect the current material environment for mankind after a thousand years" can be my answer. Taking a few steps back, I am interested in the current human existence. I think museums and historical humanities are the entry points and the mirrors for observing human culture.

My archaeological journey from the inside out begins with my suspicion or identification with the world around me; from the Internet, subcultures, and virtual symbols to the real physical world. Cultural relics are the crystallization of time tempered from the ruins of civilization; contemporary works of art are relics belonging to the future. In the long run, everything is historically inevitably reconstructed from its own historical context.

I imagine myself as the narrow, ephemeral passageway in the center of the hourglass; above the passageway is the culture of human history; below the passageway is the slow descent of my artistic practice.

Q: What are your long-term goals as an artist?

Jiujian: My artistic creation is a state of chasing the shadow in front of me all the time. Achieving reconciliation and balance with this chasing shadow may be a goal state. Art is just a means for me to understand the relationship between myself and the world. I try to make internal innovations without limitation in my long-term creative practice. In this process, the ripples that are accidentally triggered and swayed to the audience may have more ripples formed, which may be a good start.


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