I always feel even the weeds or grass on the roadside or small amoebas in the pond are more complex than any installations or constructions made by humans.”

Born 1986, Changde, Hunan

A 16-square-metre model of central Beijing set on a bed of white rice is the product of Zhou Jie’s uneasy fascination with China’s urban explosion. “The city makes me feel oppressed and uncomfortable,” she says. In proportions and relationships, the more than 200 buildings of her CBD (2010) closely follow the models Zhou Jie studied on numerous visits to the Beijing Urban Planning Authority. But she has made them all stark white—the colour of mourning in China—and given them organic-looking growths and encrustations that look like coral, floral buds—or tumours. In fact, Zhou Jie says, they are based on “my impression of bacteria and viruses”. The porcelain of which they are made is both a symbol of China and a reminder of how fragile man’s creations can be. “If we didn’t develop cities, we would still be living in the Stone Age,” the artist observes. “But our cities are growing faster and faster, spreading like infections. The city is bound to develop as the economy grows, but we are invading nature and upsetting the balance. Maybe one day we need to go back to the natural way of living.”

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