Xie Rong, a Chinese-born contemporary artist, specializes in performance and video art. Her work, born from a hybrid complex self-awareness, balances between tradition and modernity. The artist tells about the personal, translating her stories into the language of performance, recites texts in English, and sings traditional Chinese songs. Xie Rong uses the technique of homage and silence, indicating his presence, powerful and fragile at the same time. The artist uses her influence on the public, involving the audience in her own performance.
Xie Rong’s narrative is based on her family history. In her works, she shares memories of her childhood in the city of Chengdu in the Sichuan region, talks about her relatives and the ancestors of her family. The personal memories that the artist explores are based on the deep traditions of a complex Chinese society undergoing ideological, political, economic and social changes.
Xie Rong analyzes the stereotypes associated with China, fights against them and opposes them. He paints his body with classical Chinese cultural symbols, mimicking either blue-and-white porcelain or classical Chinese landscapes and calligraphy, giving new meaning to traditional Chinese painting. With her art, she “translates” traditional classical Chinese art into modern language, adapting it to modern Western perception.
Xie Rong’s work is influenced by Western performance artists of the 1960s and 70s. In those years, performance included an exploration of the capabilities of the human body, a test of physical and mental endurance and stamina. Shi Rong, using voice, body, symbolic images and personal texts, examines the relationship between such human manifestations as cruelty, beauty, vulnerability, trying to understand how all this together affects the formation of self-awareness and the feeling of one’s own body. Shows traditional Chinese art through a modern view from the side – from Europe, using both sound and traditional Chinese symbols – for example, a goldfish, concepts from Chinese philosophy.
Often, Xie Rong invites the audience to take an active part in her performances, drawing strength from the vulnerable position in which the audience finds themselves and the discomfort experienced by the participants in the show. The emotions of the audience are intertwined with the feelings of the artist, which allows her to build a certain model of relationships, which is a holistic performance.
The creative cycle of actions of the artist and the audience, the inextricable link between the past and the future, between traditional cultural baggage and contemporary art echoes the principle of Buddhist samsara: the cycle of birth and death, growth and decay, death and rebirth.
Xie Rong (1983) was born in Chengdu, China. She attended art school in Sichuan, where she studied classical drawing and calligraphy, at the age of 19 she left to continue her studies in London, where she received her first academic degree in graphic design from the Central Saint Martins College of Art (CSM) and the second academic degree in art from the Royal College of Art. Lives and works in London and Surrey. Participated in solo and group exhibitions in Hong Kong, Australia, China, Sweden, Germany and England. Her husband, photographer Jamie Baker, helps her in her work.
Xie Rong. “The place where I yearn is day and night.” Ramat Gan Museum of Russian and Far Eastern Art. From November 11, 2021 – May 2022 Exhibition curated by Adiya Porat
In a year of Instagramming dangerously, 52 artists respond to critical issues across the broader Asia region.
The mainstream media keeps us in a constant state of emergency where the word ‘crisis’ is used daily and ‘breaking news’ is a permanent banner across our screens. The real emergencies we should be facing are often disguised behind biased rhetoric or consciously omitted altogether: Climate change! Severe economic inequality! Decay of democracy! Brexit! Trump! The alt-right!
52 ARTISTS 52 ACTIONS sets out to address the real and daunting trials of everyday life across contemporary Asia. Each of the 52 artists includes a statement about their work, which often reads as a compelling, heartbreaking memoir in miniature, giving deep insights into cultural traditions.
Echo Morgan – cover artist – says this:
I was sent away at the age of four after my parents’ divorce to board at a much-hated, strict communist kindergarten. There I was shaped into a ‘xiao hong hua’, a little red flower, obedient and pliant. This early communist education and China’s economic boom is deeply embodied in my roots. They still strongly control my thoughts and behaviour.
Other highlights include:
– Kyungah Ham’s Korean Mona Lisas
– Deborah Kelly’s crowd-sourced feminist wisdom as print-at-home stickers and posters
– Heman Chong’s list of 198 forms of non-violent action
– Chim Pom’s oversized jigsaw puzzle, Find the C*&R!!!, in response to Japan becoming increasingly strict about nudity even though Asia’s largest red-light district, Kabukicho, is in Shinjuku, Tokyo
– The Mulka Project’s mission to sustain and protect Yolngu cultural knowledge in north-east Arnhem Land under the leadership of community elders.
52 ARTISTS 52 ACTIONS champions small acts of disobedience undertaken live and online by 52 artists from 31 countries across Asia, addressing important concerns locally and globally.
From historical revisionism in the Philippines to micro-celebrities in Bangladesh, military abuse in Myanmar to rising sea levels in Indonesia, visibility for LGBTQI+ people of colour to contemporary Indigeneity, the artists tackle critical issues with determination, innovation and humour. Each week, the work of a different artist is presented in a unique context, spanning a year of new artistic practice across the region.
Exploring the role of activism and protest throughout, the focus is on art-as-action that has the power to raise awareness and invoke change. With striking images and bold, graphic design, 52 ARTISTS 52 ACTIONS is an encyclopaedia of creative responses to political and social issues facing contemporary Asia.
Xie Rong x Echo Morgan – After her divorce in the UK, a petite Sichuan girl started her five-years performance art journey.
Art China · Meng Yuan | 2016-11-03 17:20
The first “Beijing·Live” International Performance Art Festival was held from October 15th to 23rd, 2016. More than 30 performance artists from 13 countries presented performance art works at the Danish Cultural Center. Echo Morgan performed her new work, My Father and My Son. The Art China reporter interviewed the artist Xie Rong and had a new understanding of her behavior.
1. You were a designer at the beginning. What is the opportunity for you to switch to behavioral art creation?
Yes, I was in college at the Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design. I belonged to the University of the Arts in London. When I was in school, I found that the boundaries between design and art were very vague. The graduation thesis at the time was influenced by Hélène Cixous’s theory of “negative writing”. In the book “Medusa’s Laughter,” she wrote: “Women must write about herself: must write a woman and bring a woman to writing… a woman must put herself in the text – bring her story back In the world and in history – through her own actions.”
My graduation thesis is “The Symbol of Negative Writing and Identity”, and I wrote an autobiography “Xie Rong and the Thirsty Devil”. In the autobiography, I combed my family history into the “three steps”: the root of the school, the school of death and the school of dreams. This is a turning point in my spirit and a turning point in art.
Xie Rong’s paper self-made book
I am a very emotional person. From small to large, I can feel the impact on my body and emotions around me. I like performance and like to speak, but I didn’t find a suitable channel to send it out. Body writing made me open my voice. I realized that my voice and my story are powerful. I used to think that this is just my personal experience. I think art is not personal but public. Everyone can feel and Experience, so I feel too personal to become very narrow. But after reading the book of Xisu, I found that it was not. When I put my body in the big age, I suddenly had power. I found the art of performance art and the sheep to express myself.
Xie Rong’s paper self-made book
2. What is the first performance art work?
In fact, this starts from the fact that I stopped writing for two years. When I was 21, I married an Irishman. After seven years, I separated. Later, I met my father to commit suicide. The two worlds collapsed at the same time, causing me to collapse. I have not created any works for two years. From 2011 I entered the Royal College of Art and followed Nigel Rolfe to study performance art.
“Send Book” was created in 2011 by artists during performances
“Book” was created in 2011. The artist is barefoot and uses ink to wash his hair.
My first performance art work was “Send a Book,” which was created in 2011. I was studying printmaking and learned that the world’s first prints were made with women’s hair instead of silk. So I went back to the woman’s body and painted it with ink on her hair. The painting was very abstract and it was an understanding of my own hair. I spent five hours creating an eleven-meter abstract scroll that represents my eleven years with my ex-husband. After bathing, the water washed the paint off the hair, and the ink was painted all over the body. At that moment, I felt that I was born again. Many of my works draw on the works of predecessors and need to think about how to turn them into their own artistic language. I feel that my cultural background is very important.
Xie Rong is painting with his hair
“Send Book” was created in 2011. The artist paints on a long roll of eleven meters.
3. This time, “My Father and My Son,” I used an object like a ball, which seems to appear in your previous work.
The object was woven from bamboo strips and covered with more than 80 sheets of rice paper. The shape is not very precise. It is made up of two parts, like a lantern, uterus, breast, testicles, planet, silkworm cocoons, eggs, nests, and so on. It also appeared in my four-hour behavioral work, Be the Inside of the Vase, in 2012. The image at the time was more precise and it was a vase.
Bamboo and rice paper woven objects
Objects appearing in “My Father and My Son”
At that time, the museum did not allow me to ignite the vase. I stood in the whole body with Meilan Zhuju, and asked the audience to throw a water polo to break the vase. The story of my father and me has puzzled me for so many years, and I hope to break it. The audience broke the lantern with 150 water polo. The water polo lost its light in 5 minutes and washed off the blue and white porcelain patterns and pigments on my body.
Xie Rong painted part of the bamboo on his body
Xie Rong’s 2012 performance art work “Being the Inner of the Vase”, which also appeared similar objects
One of the water polo players was very hard when they lost it. It hit my eyes and it hurts. The dark circles are like pandas for two weeks. This is a kind of violence. It is a retrospective of the cold violence I felt when I was a child. My mother has a face to face. I am not allowed to talk about their divorce. It is a mental imprisonment for me. At the time, an editor wrote a commentary and said that it was very repugnant to this kind of violence, and he did not know how to become a party to violence. She feels that the artist appears in a fragile and weak image, using his own vulnerability to make the audience become weaker, and the artist controls the mood of the audience.
The audience threw the water polo to the artist, the water polo broke the rice paper, and washed off the paint on the artist.
4. You just mentioned that there is a water polo that hits your eyes. Does it mean that there are many sudden and random factors in the performance of performance art?
Yes, there was an unexpected situation in the performance art performance of “My Father and My Son”. After my father died, I really wanted to burn the lanterns that were not allowed to be lit before. Originally, the fire was very beautiful when I was experimenting the previous day. The ashes floated up and slowly fell. At that time, it should be the end of my performance art. On the second day of the official performance, I found that the paste completely prevented me from burning the lantern. I used to use the pvc adhesive that was very flammable in the UK.
After the flames are gathered, leave scars and holes
Everyone saw it at the time. Some people gave me a lighter. Many people who had heard my thoughts wondered how I would continue to the next step, and most of the audience didn’t know that this momentum was not my original idea. I found that I liked this kind of burning way. The flame burned up, and soon the flames went out again. It was both arrogant and subtle. Curator JonasStampe said that this is the sorrow of people. You want him to drift with the wind in a big fire, but it is always lingering. This is the most real emotion and life of man.
Later, when I was communicating with a Swedish artist, he felt that the most striking thing about performance art was that while the audience was thinking, the artist was thinking about the direction of performance. This is also the place where performance art is different from step-by-step stage play. It is a real situation on the scene, rather than step by step according to the script. When I wanted to burn this lantern and burned it, during this time, everyone had a lot of ideas and removed all the factors of the stage and performance.
5. You said that you haven’t thought about how to explain this work with your mother after returning to the UK. Is it afraid that the mother can’t accept the nude or do you say a lot of personal family scars in the work?
I think that for performance artists, the body is no longer naked, but a carrier of art. In fact, this is more about my mother’s face. My mother is a soldier. My father is a little punk. It is a waver in the rivers and lakes. She wants to use her love to save a fallen soul. At that time, the mother’s family did not agree with them. After quarreling with the family, the mother rushed out of the house and suffered a car accident causing the uterus to shift, leaving a scar on the lower back. In “Inner of the Vase”, I set up a canal with a water polo. The shape is a map of China. It has nothing to do with politics. It is the shape of the scar on my mother’s lower back.
The canal of Chinese land graphics is the scar of the mother
After the performance art performance
The behavior I did at the time was not only showing my own pain, but also showing my mother’s pain. When I told my mother about this behavior, she was very angry and said, “I have been divorced for 30 years, and even my best friend has not told me. I don’t want others to see my jokes because the Chinese believe that the ugliness cannot be promoted. You made a work, the whole world knows about me and your father, and the whole world knows your growth experience.”
But I think it’s actually like being happy to write in the novel “Good Women in China”. “The custom of China is to face, but the face is also part of your body. It hurts your own heart and hurts your face. “”
6. You used a very calm tone to tell the story in “My Father and My Son”. What does the power of language and narrative mean for your performance art?
My mentor, Nigel Rolfe, and I said that when you are most powerful, when you are silent, you need to learn to control your own voice. When doing the act, I am now reminding myself to come. The professor also told me to remove the personal feelings, because the story is already very personal, there is no need to go to lyrics, and the lyrics will look very artificial. Speaking very peacefully, then it is a story, emotions are something that others have to experience, not what you emphasize.
7. Why do you insist on doing performance art?
Let me take a picture of my film based on my work in 2013. At that time, I talked about my father’s experience. His life represented the experience of people of that era going to sea to do business. He accumulated a lot of wealth, but he died in a car accident and killed many innocent people. Then he was sentenced to jail and imprisoned, and his family was ruined to redeem his freedom. After he was released from prison, his life was declining. His life represents a lot of tragic people. I received letters from audiences around the world, and I told them the tragic story of their personal privacy. I have found a medium that allows me to express myself and put my personal stories in the big age and resonate with people.
It is very fortunate to be a performance artist. You can use your work to record your own changes and record your life. When I performed the performance of “The Inner of the Vase”, I had a very young body. At that time, I was talking about the relationship between my daughter and my father. The image is in line with the image of a very small girl. This time, “My Father and My Son,” I am already a mother who has given birth to a child. My image is a daughter and a mother. I think that when I am old, I have to do a corresponding behavioral work. It is wrinkles all over the body, and the feeling of a ceramic to the last time after the time splits.
When I was doing performance art in Berlin, I met Linda Mary Montano, who did the same thing every three years. At the age of 75, lying on the street in Gothenburg, a very faint “squeaky” sound every second. On behalf of the heartbeat, for an entire hour, the last woman yelled at her with a horn, “Linda, got up, and died after sleeping.” She also recorded herself every day: “I am dying, I am going to die, I am Every day is dying.” She said that she would do the day she eventually died.
Adherence to performance art is not just a matter of emotional and ideological needs. Performance art is very inclusive, and all the techniques I have studied before can be placed in performance art. Performance art is not that you see a picture on the wall. I am this piece of art. I live in front of you and can re-emphasize the purest and most essential relationship between people. Nigel Rolfe once said: “Being a performance art is a responsibility. We live in a turbulent society, and war still exists. If we can use our individual voices and behaviors to infect a small group of people, we express our concern for society. The sense of responsibility, then the performance art is meaningful.”
“Touching the blessing”
When Xie Rong was pregnant for six months, she invited the audience to touch her pregnant belly. Life is shared and feelings are shared.
“Steel Ball Iron Egg”
She is like a steel warrior, dressed in armor and hanging iron balls. Whenever people shake their bells, she opens her helmet and tells a story.