About the Photographer
Chinese, b. 1960
Zhou Xiaohu is an artist working with photography, video, sculpture, animation, and performance to explore issues of power, group dynamics, and media control and representation. Xiaohu is interested in examining the behavior and social dynamics of human beings in socially closed contexts, such as large corporations and educational institutions.
First exhibited in the 2010 Gwanju Biennale, Concentration Training Camp is an eight-part video installation involving multiple projections, still photography, and video monitors. Xiaohu’s videos fictionally depict employees of an American-owned company called Amway, undergoing elaborate job training and initiation rituals. The video satirically critiques the current economic practices in China, calling attention especially to American companies that recruit globally for pyramid scheme employment. The workers are seen undergoing training, including activities like trust falls and the telephone game. They engage in ‘motivational drills,’ yelling phrases like ‘victory victory makes good winning’ and ‘I want to become boss unnecessary to work.’ While the participants are undergoing these elaborate training practices, they appear to be stiffly upright, but are actually hanging upside down from a hidden suspension system. The training rooms are inverted so as to appear normal to the viewer, but the hair and clothing of the participants reveals the pull of gravity, creating a further sense of disorientation. Xiaohu’s playful and humorous subversion of gravity, coupled with the military-like drills full of slogans that are uncannily similar to communist propaganda, provocatively exposes the relationship between economics, politics, and consumerism.
In the ongoing performance project, Crazy English Camp (2010), Xiaohu explores Chinese social behaviors that mistranslate and misinterpret western marketing concepts and tools. Xiaohu invited one of the teachers of Crazy English--a company that specializes in teaching English to large Chinese audiences in venues such as football stadiums and large auditoriums--to conduct a lesson at the Tate Modern Urban Hall in London in 2010. In bringing this lesson to an English-speaking country, Xiaohu sought to turn something familiar--the English language--into something alien and unfamiliar. Echoing themes that run through Concentration Training Camp, Crazy English Camp draws attention to issues of group dynamics and cultural imperialism through acts of ritual and performance, distorted and removed from the original intention and context.
The Party Camp is a performance piece that took place during the opening of the Double Infinity exhibition in Shanghai, in which Xiaohu invited local and international guests--as well as waiters and technical staff--to participate. He provided 30-40 participants with remote devices to secretly guide them during the opening, asking them to perform simple, but potentially awkward, gestures, such as raising their hands, stopping in place, or walking backwards.
Zhou Xiaohu graduated from the Sichuan Academy of Fine Arts, China (1989). He has exhibited at the BizArt Center, Shanghai, the Walsh Gallery, Chicago, Ethan Cohen Fine Arts, New York, the Tate Modern, London, the Long March Space, Beijing, and the Sichuan Academy of Fine Arts, in Chongqing, China. Xiaohu lives and works in Shanghai.