‘I think artists have the power to act.’
b. Beijing 1963. Lives and works in Beijing.
One of the most prolific and innovative artists to emerge in China in the last decade of the twentieth century, Yin Xiuzhen was born in Beijing in 1963. She studied oil painting under the conservative Soviet-influenced curriculum of Capital Normal University, graduating in 1989, and then taught art in middle school for ten years, gradually developing her conceptual practice throughout this time. Known for her use of second-hand objects, most particularly used clothing and shoes, Yin Xiuzhen’s work reflects on personal and cultural memory, and has been exhibited worldwide in significant solo and group exhibitions, including Art and China After 1989: Theater of the World at the Guggenheim Museum in 2017, and in the China Pavilion of the 52nd Venice Biennale, curated by Hou Hanru in 2005. Her work Life (2017) is an installation of 3000 realistic cigarette butts made of stitched, rolled-up second-hand clothing that was once worn by smokers — and non-smokers — or, as the artist describes them, second-hand smokers. The title suggests the measuring of time by cigarettes smoked, in a sinister kind of diary. Crushed and crumpled, as if abandoned in a huge ashtray, these cigarette butts are at once comical yet sinister; they are like toy cigarettes, but you can almost smell the stale, burnt tobacco.