To Add One Meter to an Anonymous Mountain documents a 1995 performance by ten members of the Beijing East Village Group. The collective’s name references New York’s East Village, a centre of countercultural art in the mid-twentieth century. From its base in a village in the north-east periphery of Beijing, the group of artists produced an array of experimental, ephemeral works before its dissolution in the mid-1990s. The group’s dynamic activity channelled the economic and cultural shifts marking China after 1989.
The video opens with a list of the ten artists by weight, from heaviest to lightest: Wang Shihua, Cang Xin, Gao Yang, Zuxiao Zuzhou, Ma Zhongyin, Zhang Huan, Ma Liuming, Zhang Binbin, Duan Yingmei, and Zhu Ming. A road winding through a valley comes into view. The camera pans across one of the hills; two surveyors measure its relative height. At its grassy top, the artists strip naked. The weather is cloudy and windy. After weighing themselves, each artist steps out of the frame. Their clothes disappear. The artists return, one by one, and lie face-down next to and on top of one another, creating a pyramid with their bodies. A surveyor validates that the pile reaches one metre in height with a tape measure. The camera pans around them and draws away, reinforcing their absorption into the landscape.