Perrotin is pleased to announce its collaboration with Qi Zhuo on his first solo presentation in the gallery program. The artist deploys various materials such as ceramics, glass, metal, and paper, exploring their history, cultural significance, and internal traditions. By transforming these materials, he establishes a delicate balance and creates a comprehensive artistic language.
Contemporary therapeutic experiences are often dematerialized. Ironically, we count on ephemeral rituals to heal our machine bodies exhausted from daily overuse. New Age therapeutic methods such as meditation, sound therapy, and spas have become so popular that society believes our body can always heal by itself. Underneath this veneer of marketing, Qi Zhuo’s Bubble Game series tells another, perhaps anachronistic side of the story. The seemingly strong body is actually fragile and unstable; the seemingly temporary restoration props can already strike a balance with the physical body. When the physical body fails at self-healing, the individual may reach higher consciousness through auxiliary repairs.
With its highly recognizable sculptural language, Bubble Game depicts the specific moment of reparation as the joining of two different materials. The center of the sculpture is a replica of a torso of a Buddhist sculpture from the Northern and Southern Dynasties. One can still see the vivid movements and elegant gestures in the figure, despite the apparent damages – a testament to the exceptional craftsmanship and design of the original work. The artist attaches colored blown glass bubbles to the damaged parts of the Buddha’s body as if to create a seal, and turns them into new bases for the torsos. These crystalline glass bubbles not only protect the stone sculptures at stress points of the Buddhas’ body but also serve as framing elements that highlight the Buddhas’ dynamic yet serene posture.
For many years, Qi lived and worked in France, developing his practice in a continental context. Upon returning to China a few years ago, he delved deep into the history of Buddhist art and reconstructed its imageries in the context of transcultural contemporary art. This mixed Chinese French cultural identity inspired him to re-imagine cultural integration, carefully incorporating references from Chinese history into his work.
It is conceivable that the artist has to reenact the processes of building, breaking, and restoring Buddhist sculptures in his studio. And these body-objects must survive various forms of emotional scrutiny. If the caretakers of those ancient Buddhist sculptures learned of the equal gaze of their contemporary counterparts, would their sorrow over the sculptures’ mutilations be eased? One cannot help but wonder. These bodily restorations parallel the ancient Buddhist tale from The Great Tang Dynasty Records of the Western Regions, in which the younger brother of the King of Kucha, who did good deeds, miraculously regained his phallus with the help of Buddha—“through the power of charity, his body gradually regained its male form.” Buddhist tales like this prompt us to contemplate the purpose of the body and its relationship to life and to reconsider the dialectical significance of bodily integrity and ableism in different historical periods.
Qi’s latest works were created during the pandemic, reminding us of gender and queer theorist Jack Halberstam’s reflections on epidemic outbreaks in the 1990s. Halberstam sees them as a crisis of time, because people faced with death tend to compress all future life into "the here, the now, the present.” Anxiety makes people abandon common sense and logic. Critical disability theorist Alison Kafer advocates using the life experiences of disabled bodies to challenge the common temporal limits in society. Noting the contradiction between the finite body and the high-pressure culture of our times, she interprets procrastination as spontaneous meditation demanded by the body.
Kafer argues that this time is never wasted, but rather used for reflection. Focusing on the body does not necessarily lead to anxiety-triggering perfectionism and ableism. Instead, it encourages us to pace ourselves according to our bodily needs. This mentality helps us cope with our own fragility and unavoidable social anxiety. In these philosophical reflections, which echo Qi’s practice, time and healing go hand in hand. If individuals contextualize their bodies and healing rituals within a broader time frame, they may recognize the absurd obsessions with a perfect and flawless body.
Born in 1985 in Fuxin, China
Lives and works in Paris, France
Qi Zhuo graduated with honors from the Le Mans School of Art and Design (with a DNSEP diploma), before completing the KAOLIN postgraduate program at ENSA Limoges in France and the Geneva University of Art and Design in Switzerland. Zhuo's practice contains reflections on multiculturalism and cultural misunderstandings. He deploys various materials such as ceramics, glass, metal, and paper, exploring their history, cultural significance, and internal traditions. By transforming these materials, he establishes a delicate balance and creates a comprehensive artistic language.
On the surface, Qi Zhuo's works are humorous and poetic but they are also full of contradictions and uncertainty. As a Chinese person in a foreign country, he tries to interpret the social environment from the perspective of the "other", while examining his own culture from a foreign perspective. The differences and misunderstandings generated by the collision of different cultures and languages become a way of communication. Qi Zhuo’s works use this context to set up a variety of "mistakes" for the audience.