(Original language: Mandarin)
ZHANG WEI: This building was completed in 1958. They used leftover materials from 'The Ten Great Buildings' to build it. The building was designed to control the minds of its inhabitants, hence, it was an ideological product. They wanted to embody socialism in this building, so no kitchen was built. Every single family and every single inhabitant had to eat in the public canteen. However, soon after we had moved into this building the Cultural Revolution started. During the Cultural Revolution people in the building became very nervous. Every inhabitant was worried that something might happen to them the next day because this was a special building in Beijing at that time. It was tall and chic. Many people wanted to live there, especially the ageing intellectuals and capitalists. Those who had once been a little bit well off would try to find a way to move into the building. These people, however, were doomed during the Cultural Revolution. They were all under surveillance by the relocated original inhabitants, and their everyday conduct was reported. Many who lived in this building during the Cultural Revolution were kept under control.
When I was painting this picture, I specifically wanted to express the difference between the indoor and outdoor moods, meaning the mood of the harsh political reality outdoors where weird things happened every day and the mood of the home, indoors. Home is warm and a place where one can casually do one’s own thing, think of one’s own stuff and speak freely. The difference in mood between indoors and outdoors was something I very much wanted to maintain. Home is particularly intimate and important to each of us because my family is simple and has few members. It is convenient for people to come over to pour out their hearts have a casual chat or an in-depth discussion about art. It is a place where we can find mutual support and comfort. These people always gathered in my home and gradually a small organisation, 'No Name Group', was formed. In 1974 the group’s first underground contemporary art exhibition was held in my home. I remember the date: 31 December 1974. We hung our paintings on the walls in my home and laid them on tables and chairs. There were more than ten of us, and our paintings were everywhere.
Artist Zhang Wei describes the conditions of living in the Fusuijing Building in 1970s Beijing.
Zhang’s small landscape work Fusuijing Building from 1975 documents the scene outside the window of his apartment in Fusuijing Building, where the pioneering No Name Group’s first exhibition took place in 1975. Zhang’s early works from the 1970s reflect the lack of artistic freedom during the Cultural Revolution, when art was mainly made for propaganda and political purposes.
Zhang pioneered conceptual landscape painting as a form of resistance against the politically charged realism of the era. His vision for a pure art and experimentation in nonrepresentational painting anchors the development of Chinese contemporary art. Zhang lives and works in Beijing.
This video was originally published on M+ Stories.