An acute exposition of social realities in China, Zhao’s large-scale video environment depicts the interior of a dormitory for construction workers. One side of the space shows sleeping men; the other, a row of empty beds. Walking through, the visitor is immersed in simple scenes illustrating the sacrifices made by China’s laborers, as the slow, unyielding camera pan reveals telling personal details. Shot in Beijing during the fast-paced construction leading up to the 2008 Olympics, the empty beds raise the question of whether the men have gone back to work, or finally returned home.
Through video, photography, and documentary film, Zhao (born in 1971) examines the oppositional tensions in contemporary China: rural and urban realities, rapid progress and nostalgia, the nature of politics and the beauty of the natural world. He clearly connects with the underprivileged, whom he considers to be the engine of society, and homes in on everyday aspects of life ignored by public institutions. His work was previously seen at the Walker in the 2003 exhibition How Latitudes Become Forms: Art in a Global Age.
Curator: Sheryl Mousley