Zhang Dali’s Dialogue with Beijing

Zhang Dali, Dialogue: Forbidden City, Beijing, 1999. Chromogenic color print, 23 11/16 x 35 9/16 in. Image via The Museum of Modern Art, New York.

Since 1995, Zhang Dali has been attempting to communicate with the city of Beijing through graffiti. Though the conversational efficacy of his work is up for debate, the signs of his instigations still litter the streets, crumbling walls and hutongs (the ubiquitous narrow alleyways) of Beijing. They are spray painted silhouettes of a bald-headed man, often accompanied by his tag “AK-47” or hollowed out to reveal a striking scene of a city that is in a constant state of construction, preservation and demolition. Zhang explains his work in this way: “This image is a condensation of my own likeness as an individual. It stands in my place to communicate with this city. I want to know everything about this city- its state of being, its transformation, its structure.” Continue reading “Zhang Dali’s Dialogue with Beijing”

Stay Tuned for the Green Beijing Series

The CAC blog is excited to introduce a new series of posts revolving around Professor Jonathan Hay’s current Green Beijing colloquium at the Institute. A collaborative effort led by current MA candidate Elizabeth Lee, this series will be posted regularly for the duration of the Fall 2011 semester, beginning on November 14.

Zhang Dali Demolition: Forbidden City, Beijing, 1998, chromogenic color print, 35 9/16 x 23 11/16" (90.3 x 60.1 cm). Image via The Museum of Modern Art, New York.
The site of current day Beijing has seen its fair share of change. From Mongol pleasure palace to bustling Han metropolis, the city and the people who populated it have existed in a state of flux for centuries. In Professor Jonathan Hay’s Fall 2011 Green Beijing colloquium, we are focusing on the 15th century in an attempt to recreate the Ming dynasty capital in all its urban (and surprisingly verdant) glory. Through the surviving pieces of the imperial palace (aka the Forbidden City), the temples, and the surrounding parks and lakes, we are inching slowly toward an understanding of the various levels of symbolism encoded within the urban landscape of Ming Beijing. The ideological and experiential dimensions of Ming Beijing are further colored by student-led cross-cultural comparisons with cities like Angkor, Delhi, and Kyoto. While the colloquium attempts to build a vision of Beijing rooted in the past, this blog is an effort to pull the discussion closer to our own time.

By listing and discussing some contemporary artworks that deal with the historical sites we investigate—for example, the Temple of Heaven, Beihai, Beijing’s “seas,” and the city’s hutongs—we hope to create a dialogue between Ming Beijing and the Chinese capital of the 21st century.