© Zhang Huan, Shanghai Family Tree, 2001, Shanghai, China

“Family Tree broadens this vein of exploration to describe the domestic scene as a site of initiation into ideology. The photographic series comprises nine sequential images made at regular interval from dawn until dusk on one day. Again, they all feature the face of Zhang Huan, the physical trace of his lineage. Throughout this process, the artist dictated to three calligraphers a stream of familiar names, personal stories, learned tales, and random thoughts. Each was transcribed in ink onto the artist’s face until, at the end of the day, he was completely covered in a thick layer of black pigment. Here, the contents and processes of an individual consciousness, learned from forebears and / or organized according to systems of belief conditioned by experience with them, become a mask or second skin. They are inseparable from that which the rest of the world takes to be a unique identity and original producing consciousness.”
Thom Collins
© Zhang Huan, Family Tree, 2000, New York, USA

“This idea is made iconic in Foam. Zhang Huan’s face is isolated in the ten pictures in the series. In each, he appears covered in white suds like sea foam with a snapshot of members of his wife’s family or his own bursting out of his mouth as if it were a sound. Here, Zhang Huan appears new-born – covered with a substance that might refer to both the human birth process and the birth of a mythological character in the waves – but also in the throes of an irresistible utterance. This speech act, his pictures suggest, while an expression of self, has also inevitably been shaped by his own lineage and that of his life partner and mother of his children. His ancestors speak through him.”
Thom Collins

© Zhang Huan, Foam, 1998, Beijing, China


“I invited 3 calligraphers to write texts on my face from early morning until night. I told them what they should write and to always keep a serious attitude when writing the texts even when my face turns to dark. My face followed the daylight till it slowly darkened. I cannot tell who I am. My identity has disappeared.
Zhang Huan


To see more of Zhang’s work click here

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