Beijing-based artist Zhao Liangs mesmerizing video installation Heavy Sleepers (2006), an acute observation of social realities in China, will be on view in the Walker Art Center
s Target Gallery from December 17, 2009March 14, 2010. The 18-minute, two-channel video depicts the interior of a dormitory for construction workers during the massive effort to build todays China for the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Also screening will be Zhaos 25-minute single-channel video Narrative Landscape (20072008), which tracks the effects of time and decay on The Great Wall, one of the most ambitious building projects of all time. Zhao Liang will visit the Walker in January to introduce screenings of his documentary films PetitionThe Court of the Complainants (Friday, January 29, 7:30 pm) and Crime and Punishment (Saturday, January 30, 7:30 pm), both of which are part of the series Expanding the Frame: Journeys. In addition, he will discuss Heavy Sleepers with visitors in the gallery from 34 pm on Saturday, January 30. The in-gallery presentation of Heavy Sleepers and Narrative Landscape is organized by film/video curator Sheryl Mousley.
In this corridor installation, the visitor is taken into the intimate quarters of migrant workers who have traveled to Beijing to work during the citys construction boom. One side shows the workers sleeping; the other, their empty beds. Walking through the immersive installation, the visitor encounters simple scenes illustrating the sacrifices made by Chinas laborers, as the slow, unyielding camera pan reveals telling personal details. The scene of the empty beds raises the question of whether the men have gone back to work, or finally returned home.
From a distance, The Great Wall of China looks like the spine of the mountains surrounding it, but a closer view reveals only the remnants of a ruin. As the wind rustles the trees and wild grass, a sandstorm rushes towards the decaying wall. The narrative tells the story of a wall built and rebuilt between the 5th century BC and the 16th century to protect Chinas northern borders. Stretching for more than 5,000 miles, the wall reveals areas vulnerable to the windblown sands from nearby fields that have been eroded through deforestation due to rapid building expansion.
Zhao Liang belongs to a generation of artists who are attempting to create an aesthetic that takes into account the methods of documentary filmmaking and the language of popular culture. Through video, photography, and documentary film, Zhao (born in 1971) examines the oppositional tensions in contemporary China: rural and urban realities, rapid progress and nostalgia, the nature of politics and the beauty of the natural world. He clearly connects with the underprivileged, whom he considers to be the engine of society, and homes in on everyday aspects of life ignored by public institutions. His work was previously seen at the Walker in the Dig.It Festival of Digital Media in 2002 and in the exhibition How Latitudes Become Forms: Art in a Global Age in 2003.