‘Art can be dangerous, like life itself, and like fate.’
Born 1969 Zhangzhou, Fujian. Lives and works in Beijing.
Qiu Zhijie graduated from the Printmaking Department of the Zhejiang Academy of Fine Arts (now China Academy of Art, Hangzhou) in 1992. As a ground-breaking curator, he was responsible for a notorious 1999 exhibition in Beijing, Post-Sense Sensibility: Alien Bodies and Delusion, as well as Long March: A Walking Visual Display in Beijing in 2002; the 2012 Shanghai Biennale, and the China Pavilion of the 2017 Venice Biennale. Widely acknowledged as one of the most significant Chinese artists of his generation, Qiu’s work has been a vehicle for coming to an understanding of how China — and the world — have transformed since his boyhood. He is deeply invested in Chinese tradition: in many ways Qiu wears the mantle of the literati, the scholar class of poets, painters, calligraphers and intellectuals in pre-revolutionary China. His ongoing reinvention of scroll painting, his co-curation of the Long March Project in 2002, and a socially engaged project surrounding the modernist symbol of the Nanjing River Bridge reveal his commitment to a preservation of traditions. At the same time, however, his work represents a break with the recent past. By challenging western modernity and applying Chinese philosophy to the global present Qiu constructs a bridge between binaries of east and west, past and present. The Mapping the World Project was Qiu Zhijie’s ambitious attempt to record and classify aspects of modern life. The Heritage of the Third World (2013) seems at first to be an ancient, hand-drawn map, like those made by the first European explorers to venture to the Middle Kingdom. There are rivers and their tributaries, lakes, mountain peaks and volcanoes, all labelled in Chinese, French and English. But it quickly becomes apparent that this is no ordinary map — we see the Wetland of Political Islam, the Mount of Christianity, the Plateau of Colonialism and the Peak of Dictators. There is a place called ‘Coup’ and another called ‘Corruption’. Here we have a map-maker who is trying to make sense of the apparent chaos and instability of the contemporary post-colonial world of porous borders and virtual realities, a seeker of patterns and an advocate for justice.