ABOUT THE ARTIST
Beichen Zhang was born in Shandong Province. He received his BA from the Photography Department of the Shandong University of Arts in 2016 and his MFA in America from the Maryland Institute College of Art in 2019. He researches the structures of narration to unveil hidden histories, framing most of his works through essay films and field-based research. Recently, he has also worked with a broad range of media, using audio, installation, and art books to query and investigate the relationship between artifacts and Asia’s colonial history, raising questions about the complexity of historical documentaries and visual anthropology. His work is a set of a visual experiences, metaphorical, poetic, and research-based but grounded in personal narrative. He has exhibited in China and abroad, and he now lives and works in New York City.
ABOUT THE WORK
About 11,565Km Project
11,565 Km Project tracks the path of an artifact from Shandong Province, China to the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology in the United States. This work highlights issues related to the circulation of Chinese artifacts and the complexity of Chinese colonial histories. It portrays the long migration of this Chinese coffin, its historical colonial background, and the power dynamics within institutional museum collections.
11，565 Kilometers project includes: an essay film (one channel 4K color video and sound), a photography book, a photography installation (soil, rocks, photos ), and one 3D printed sculpture, as well as some site-specific installations. .
In June 2018, the artist began conducting research on a Chinese artifact at pthe University of Pennsylvania’s museum: a coffin fragment (object#: 40-35-4) located in their Asian Art pavilion. Zhang’s research grew to combine photography with his field investigations, encompassing multiple countries over the course of 17 months. He became involved in field investigations, cultural relic reproduction, historical text research, and museum institutional criticism. He tried to excavate the unknown story and build a visual journey from it.
Zhang regarded his exploration of hidden historical images as a process of shaping his personal view of history, his efforts reflected in the dynamic changes of the historical landscape. With the help of Western historians and Chinese archaeologists, Zhang synthesized the data collected by all parties (German and Japanese colonial history in Shandong, etc.) and archives (the story of Japanese antique dealer Yamanaka) to narrate an unofficial story.
11,565 Kilometers art project contains a 36-minute essay film (this film is a long poetic documentary – Zhang drove from the Chinese inland to the coastline along the Shandong Peninsula in 2018-2019, observing an old artifact smuggling path that showed the contrast between historical landscapes and realistic scenes) and a photographic installation including photo works and precious images he collected from before World War I , as well as related items from historical sites. . Zhang analyzes the clues of historical sites and remodels them through his installation, which includes the 3D printed sample of the central object and a photobook.