To Raise the Water Level in a Fishpond
1997, Performance, Beijing, China
Zhang Huan: “I invited about forty participants, recent migrants to the city who had come to work in Beijing from other parts of China. They were construction workers, fishermen and labourers, all from the bottom of society. They stood around in the pond and then I walked in it. At first, they stood in a line in the middle to separate the pond into two parts. Then they all walked freely, until the point of the performance arrived, which was to raise the water level. Then they stood still. In the Chinese tradition, fish is the symbol of sex while water is the source of life. This work expresses, in fact, one kind of understanding and explanation of water. That the water in the pond was raised one metre higher is an action of no avail.”
These works are being posted by the site Admin while I’m at Bouchercon (where I’m having a great time, by the way). I’ve found myself with a few minutes for getting online right now and I wanted to comment on this, which is one of my favorites. For one thing, I think it’s beautiful. For another, it’s political. These are all migrant workers, and in some sense in today’s China, superfluous people — good for nothing more than raising the water level in a fishpond.