Born: 1958, Sichuan Province, China
Graduated: 1987, M.A., Department of Oil Painting, China National
Academy of Fine Arts, Hangzhou, China
Current: Independent artist, Beijing, China
1993-94 Circulation: Sowing and Harvesting Wenjiang County, Sichuan
1993 Incident - Process . State Hong Kong Arts Centre, Hong Kong
1992 Exhibition by Wang Jianwei Hong Kong Arts Centre, Hong Kong
1991 Wang Jianwei's Solo Exhibition Cultural Palace of China's Ethnic
Minorities, Beijing, China
2001 Translated Acts, Haus Der Kulturen Der Welt, Berlin, Germany
The State Of Things, Centre Kunst-Werke, Berlin, Germany
My home is Yours, Tokyo Opera City Art Gallery, Tokyo, Japan
Compound Eyes, Lasalle Sia College Of The Arts, Singapore
Living In Time, Nationalgalerie im Hamburger Bahnhof, Berlin, Germany
2000 Festival International De Programmes Audiovisuels, Biarritz,
Kunsten Festival Desarts, Brussel, Belgium
Brighton Festival, Brighton, UK
World Wide Video Festival, Amsterdam, Holland
Shanghai Biennale 2000, Shanghai Art Museum, China
My Home is Yours, Rodin Gallery, Seoul, Korea
1999 Fast>>Forward: New Chinese Video Art , Contemporary Art
Cities on the Move, Lousiana Museum of Modern Art, Humlebaek, Denmark
Melbourne International Biennial 1999, Melbourne, Australia
Yamagata International Documentary Film Festival'99, Yamagata, Japan
Beijing-London, ICA, London, Uk
1998 Cities on the Move Secession, Vienna, Austria
Museum of Contemporary Art, Bordeaux, France
Journey to the East '98: A Cultural Exchange Program Art Centre
of Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, Hong Kong
1997 The First Academic Exhibition of Chinese Contemporary Art China
National Gallery, Beijing, China
Gallery of Capital Normal University, Beijing, China
Another Long March: Chinese Conceptual and Installation Art in the
Nineties Breda, The Netherlands Documenta X Kassel, Germany
Journey to the East '97: A Cultural Exchange Program Art Centre
of Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, Hong Kong
In and Out - Contemporary Chinese Art of Mainland and Diaspora Dr.
Earl Lu Gallery, Lasalle-sia College of the Arts, Singapore The
Art Museum of the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, Melbourne,
The Art Museum of Sydney University, Sydney, Australia
Yamagata International Documentary Film Festival '97 Yamagata, Japan
China's New Art, Post-1989 San Jose Museum of Art, San Jose, USA
Chicago Cultural Center, Chicago, USA
1996 The Second Asia-Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art Brisbane,
China's New Art, Post-1989 University of Oregon Museum of Art, Portland,
1995 1995 Kwang-ju Biennial - "InfoArt" City Museum, Kwang-ju
City, South Korea
New Asian Art Show: An Exhibition of Works of Artists from China,
South Korea and Japan Kilin Plaza, Osaka, Japan
The Japan Foundation Forum, Tokyo, Japan
1994 '94 Beijing International COM-ART: China, Korea and Japan Gallery
of Capital Normal University, Beijing, China
China's New Art, Post-1989 Marlborough Fine Art Ltd., London, England
Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney, Australia
1993 Mao Goes Pop Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney, Australia
China's New Art, Post-1989 Hong Kong Arts Centre, Hong Kong
1990 Third Euro-Asian Art Exhibition Ankara, Turkey
1988 Artists of Beijing Painting Institute China Art Gallery, Beijing,
Oil Paintings: First Cross-Straits Exhibition China Art Gallery,
Second Oil Painting Exhibition of the International Art Palace China
Art Gallery, Beijing, China
1987 Beyond the Open Door Asia Pacific Museum, Pasadena, USA
First Chinese Oil Painting Exhibition Shanghai Exhibition Centre,
Tour Exhibition of Chinese Oil Paintings Japan
1984 Sixth National Art Exhibition Golden Award Winner China Art
Gallery, Beijing, China
multi-media theatre work
with Wang Jian Wei
A simple story. A storyteller-drummer at the court of tyrannical
emperor TsĄŻao TsĄŻao summons the public and openly insults their
supreme leader. Furious, TsĄŻao TsĄŻao wants to kill the insolent
man but is too cowardly to take charge of it himself. He sends the
troubadour to one of his very quick-tempered subordinates and the
outcome is as expected: when the drummer criticises the irascible
courtier he is sent to be executed. Ceremony, Wang JianweiĄŻs new
theatrical creation, has been inspired by Drum Rolls Criticising
TsĄŻao. Not without reason.
What is it that initiates a process of creation
I like exploring the flaws in knowledge we have acquired: what they
evade, the enigmas of history. I like questioning what we lose sight
of in their many interpretations. I like exploring the ĄŽintermediate
zonesĄŻ. How different interpretations, perceptions and forms of
knowledge can relate to one other, how they intersect and overlap,
and how new realms of potential emerge which have so far been ignored.
To do this you get your inspiration from
texts that already exist. How do you choose them?
I work with plays and fragments of literature. Both Ping Feng (performed
at the KunstenFESTIVALdesArts 2000, ed.) and Ceremony come from
known gems of Chinese art and literature. Ping Feng was inspired
by a scroll of silk painted more than 1,000 years ago by a painter
at the imperial court, Gu Hongzhong. He had been appointed by the
emperor to spy on a high-ranking civil servant he was suspicious
of and to report on him. Gu Hongzhong did this by painting what
he had observed. With time the painting Han Xizai gives a Banquet
has become one of the undisputed masterpieces in the history of
Chinese painting, and today has pride of place in the Museum of
the Forbidden City. Ceremony was also inspired by the famous public
accusation Drum Rolls Criticising TsĄŻao. IĄŻm not interested in reproducing
a story from history or bringing a new aesthetic experience to the
stage. I want to ĄŽreadĄŻ history and understand the manner and details
of how the different interpretations of it influence our experiences
of life and our attitude towards it, our individual and collective
Who was TsĄŻao?
TsĄŻao TsĄŻao, (155-220 A.D.) is a particularly significant figure
in the history of China. Under the Han dynasty, one of the most
turbulent periods in Chinese history, several nobles were fighting
for power and had sown division in the country. TsĄŻao TsĄŻao succeeded
in dominating and unifying the provinces in the north. To do this
he abused his position as prime minister whilst feigning respect
for the emperor who was nothing more than a puppet. When TsĄŻao TsĄŻao
died, his son followed in his footsteps and took over the imperial
throne. Already at that time Chinese opinion was criticising his
character and the way he acted, taking a swipe at him as an example
of the ancient proverb: Ą°He who usurps a title will never keep his
Drum Rolls Criticising TsĄŻao seizes on TsĄŻao TsĄŻao as a classic
example of a treacherous courtier. The story is based on three different
literary texts about the same subject, spread out over 1,000 years:
The History of Han, Romance of Three Kingdoms and a traditional
text entitled Kuang Gu Shi Yu Yang San Nong. The writers and styles
are very varied ¨C the first text is from the annals of a court chronicler,
the second text is a story passed down orally from generation to
generation and the third is a traditional play. So there are three
Where does the title Ceremony come from?
The title of Ceremony has a double meaning. On the one hand all
three literary sources IĄŻve used mention a place where people gathered
together: the ceremony of the drum. This unusual place suggests
in advance that weĄŻll be dealing with a character out of the ordinary.
On the other hand the story has a ceremonial nature. It is based
on historic texts covering over one thousand years of history. During
this period the sustained repetition of this story has resulted
in a consolidation of an uncontestable historical image. Serving
as a norm, this story became embedded in the collective memory.
These two types of ceremony merge together and so describe an irrefutable
Why have you chosen theatre? In your opinion,
what role ideally should theatre have in contemporary society?
Theatre enables me to state the issue, to express myself directly
and in the flesh.
In my view thatĄŻs what theatre should be: a way of expressing oneself,
expressing different points of view against the general and intellectual
background of today. And theatre should take its relationship with
contemporary society seriously and firmly establish it at the same
Does Ceremony take a stand concerning the
society you live in?
Like Ping Feng, this play asks questions and challenges things.
It is not simply a reflection of reality, any more than it is a
symbolic or suggestive evocation of it. Ceremony reflects the way
IĄŻm thinking at the moment, starting from the underlying relationships
and intermediate zones IĄŻve already mentioned. When we examine History
from a ĄŽrelationalĄŻ point of view, it is something quite different
from a succession of past events with no link between them. It becomes
a recording of the relationship between events, providing a way
of understanding and interpreting them.
Ceremony has been inspired by three literary texts and their process
of creation. It uses an individual story to analyse an historic
event. Each takes part in the ceremony, as an orator and as an actor.
The stage is transformed into a place where present and past blend,
allowing the audience to play a role reinforcing this link between
the drama and history.
What kind of relationship do you want there
to be with the audience?
One of dialogue: being able to ask each other questions.
Will an audience in the West have enough
knowledge to appreciate the in-depth analysis your plays offer?
I donĄŻt think the audience requires a special education (in Chinese
language or in politics) to understand the play. ItĄŻs more about
your own way of reading things, your own interpretation. I think
that through the dialogues, as through acting the questions and
answers taking place on stage, I can convey to the audience all
the things ĄŽat stakeĄŻ in this play.
Do circumstances in China influence the way
The technological equipment in the venues where I have to work is
definitely not suitable for multimedia performances. I also encounter
quite a few financial stumbling blocks along the way. ItĄŻs not always
easy to have to constantly change venue and convey my ideas to the
actors despite it. At the moment my rehearsals are taking place
in a meeting room about 40 metres square. I have to remind myself
and the actors all the time what the venue weĄŻll be performing in
will be like. ItĄŻs a very interesting experience.
What do you never want to see on stage?
A fixed framework, a predictable structure, lack of freedom Ą
And what attracts you?
Neither black nor white, but grey. I want to experience comprehension
and incomprehension at the same time, a balance between doubt and
conviction, being pulled by two extremes.
How do you see the world?
We seem to be subjected to two forces in the world: the first is
difficult to predict, a natural force; the other is best described
as an attempt to impose a change on the world through control. I
can only oscillate between the two: I canĄŻt submit myself passively
to a general and imposed plan, but I feel powerless in the face
of forces coming from I donĄŻt know where and that control me. I
can only understand the world from a micro point of view.
So from the outset we have to force ourselves to create a visual
experience in order to unify the space weĄŻre actually in and the
fictitious space where we will perform or want to perform.
What do you hate most in human nature?
Power and indifference.
What do you like most in it?
Heading off in search of new realms of possibility Ą