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Physique of Consciousness

by Xu Zhen

November 15, 2018 - January 19, 2019




Physique of Consciousness combines physical and spiritual virtues, enhancing body conditions and well-being. It consists of ten exercises, as ten chapters, with a progression of levels from easy to hard. The whole set of exercise lasts for thirty minutes. Movements are flowing, peaceful and aesthetic, accompanied by a relaxing music.

Involving elements of dance, gymnastics, spiritual and cultural rituals, the series of exercises is composed of hundreds of steps and moves inspired from ceremonies, worships and traditions accumulated through the history of humanity.

This fitness exercise is open to any public and it has various benefits such as maintaining a healthy physical condition, strengthening muscles, joint mobility, and improving the immune system. It can also bring peace of mind, by relieving stress and providing a feeling of wellness. The movements in Physique of Consciousness involve elements of dance, gymnastics, spiritual and cultural rituals and and represent numerous symbolic meanings, issued from various cultures and civilizations of different periods and regions. The fitness exercise "Physique of Consciousness" by definition reflects the spirit of humanity, it describes and depicts human "consciousness".

Throughout history, exploration and control of body and spirit have always been an essential topic, and the establishment of Physique of Consciousness results from researches led by Xu Zhen MadeIn Company on this topic. In addition, in 2013, Physique of Consciousness Museum was established. Physique of Consciousness Museum presents each movement, posture's religious background, their meanings in their original context and related artifacts' images. It explores the nature and source of our ideologies by creating parallels between our social, religious and political beliefs. Physique of Consciousness has been set up at several places before, among others at the Kunsthalle Bern in 2009 and at the Tate Liverpool in summer 2018.

It doesn't come as a surprise that Xu Zhen is regularly referred to as a trickster, an art chameleon and as a prankster. Although he is still quite young of age (born 1977), he already has an impressive artistic past and is regarded as highly influential for the younger art generation in China. Starting very early in the Chinese art scene of the mid-late 1990ies, he followed diverse interests in artistic creation, spanning tendencies from body art and performance to complex art installations, media art and collective art practices, just to name a few. Xu Zhen exhibited 2000 in the legendary Fuck Off-exhibition in Shanghai (curated by Feng Boyi and Ai Weiwei) and has so far been the youngest artist from China to participate at the Venice Biennial (2001 and 2005). In 2009, Xu Zhen ceased to work as an individual artist and created MadeIn Company, with which he follows a collective approach towards artistic production. In 2013, MadeIn Company launched the brand 'Xu Zhen'.

Xu Zhen's interests are diverse, and his reflective examination of his environment results in multi-layered works. Xu Zhen likes to challenge the spectator and often evokes seemingly simple associations, whereas the subtle multi-layered character of his works mostly needs further time and refinement to be discovered. It is as if he were playing with two levels in his works: A first and simple level, giving space for misunderstandings and wrong assumptions and a second level of closely knit associations and multi-layered meanings which only reveal themselves after deeper understanding and scrutiny of his works. These two different levels, the seemingly simple one and the complex one, create an interdependent tension, unsettling the spectator and making him feel insecure in his judgement. It is this insecurity which finally forces the spectator to abandon uncritical judgements and to develop independent and reflective perspectives. Xu Zhen illustrates the subtleness of Chinese art and Chinese society and motivates us to dig further even if classical stereotypes might present seemingly easy explications.

Xu Zhen was born 1977 in Shanghai, where he still lives. He has exhibited, either as Xu Zhen or under 'MadeIn Company', internationally at museums and biennales, such as, Venice Biennale (2001, 2005), The Museum of Modern Art, New York (2004), ICP (2004), Mori Art Museum , Tokyo (2005), PS1, NewYork (2006), Tate Liverpool (2007), Ruhrtriennale (2012), Hayward Gallery, London (2012), Witte de With in Rotterdam (2012), Lyon Biennale (2013), etc. Xu Zhen had solo shows at S.M.A.K. in Ghent (2009) at the IKON Gallery in Birmingham (2009), at the Kunsthalle Bern (2011), at the Ullens Center of Contemporary Art in Beijing (2014) and at the Kunsthaus Graz (2015).