Unfortunately, we saw a number of violence, as well as political and social crisis in 2015. Europe has been facing with unprecedented refugee crisis (the biggest one since the end of the Second World War), while several terrible terrorist attacks shocked the world (Charlie Hebdo attacks, Beirut terrorist attack, Paris attacks, suicide terrorist attacks in Turkey, bomb plots in planes, San Bernardino shooting, Tunisia shootings and so on). The world of art reacted in the only way it can – by producing and creating art as reaction to these acts of violence. Hundreds of artists supported the freedom of speech after attacks on the Charlie Hebdo headquarters; there were artists whose work addressed the horrors refugees are experiencing through their “journey” to Europe (Banksy created a beautiful piece in Calais or Ai Weiwei reenactment of the death of a 3-year old Syrian boy refugee, Alan Kurdi). Chine performance artist Ou Zhihang conducted quite original performance at sites of Paris Terrorist Attacks in 2015. He carried out a piece for which he did nude push-ups in front of the buildings where terrorist attacks took place.
On January 7, 2015, Chérif and Saïd Kouachi (identified as members of Al Qaeda), forced their way into the offices of the French satirical weekly newspaper Charlie Hebdo in Paris, killing 11 people and injured 11 others in the building. The world perceived these attacks as an attack against the freedom of speech (which in broader case includes freedom of artistic expression). On the evening of 13 November 2015, a series of coordinated terrorist attacks occurred in Paris in which seven perpetrators related with ISIS killed 130 people. The majority of those killed in the attacks were in at the Bataclan theatre (89 killed), during a rock concert. The world of contemporary art reacted differently, but there have been several works created as reaction to these horrific events. One of the artists who reacted is Ou Zhihang, Chinese performance artist who is best-known for his nude performances. Ou Zhihang carried out a piece, for which he did nude push-ups in front of Charlie Hebdo’s former headquarters, and across the Bataclan concert hall. The artist already conducted similar performances in China, where the reaction were a bit different from those in Paris. In his statement to the French newspaper Le Monde, he said: Normally, there are police officers, security guards, cameras in front of a sensitive place. Especially in a country that is currently in a state of emergency. But, in the end, there was no control or restraint. This puzzled me.
Ou Zhihang is television personality in China. In China, he is known for his big series of nude self-portraits doing push-ups in front of emblematic sites and places associated with scandals. This series of performances and photographs dates back to 1999. In the meantime, he caused a huge scandal a year before the Beijing Olympic Games in 2008, when he created photos that included the Bird's Nest, the China Pavilion for the 2010 World Expo, Great Wall and Potala Palace in Lhasa, Tibet autonomous region (with the artist nude on the photographs). For his art, he was arrested in China once. It’s not quite clear was there any particular political message he wanted to send with these provocative performances in Paris. Speaking about push-ups, he once said: Push-ups do not expose my private parts and the pictures look pure, dedicated, positive and even reverent. Upon first sight, the body looks like a caterpillar, trying to establish a link between itself and society. So, the main aim of the artist is (probably) to make a connection between the artist and a society that is experiencing turbulent social and violent dynamics.
Featured Image: One of Ou Zhihang performances in China (courtesy of yycac.orh). Images used for illustrative purposes only.