Born Shanghai, 1962. Lives and works in Shanghai
Jin Feng works in a variety of media, but his abiding preoccupation is with the great changes of history and their impact on ordinary people. His A History of China’s Modernisation (2011) tells the story of China from 1911 to 2011 using some 2000 words, names and faces. The 850 words and phrases are carved into chops (stamps) hand-cut from the tyres of a Chinese version of the Soviet T-34 tank; they include state-owned enterprises, Korean War, Yankees, aircraft carrier, atheism, and Treasury bonds. The faces are carved into 1000 marble chops roughly cut from a kitsch statue of Mao waving; they include Yang Liwei, China’s first astronaut; Li Hongzhi, the founder of the persecuted Falun Gong cult; and Xiao Shanling, a Nationalist general who fought the Japanese. Rice-paper slips stamped with the text and images from the chops hang alongside the piles of rubber and marble. For Jin Feng, the installation sums up the “extremely cruel” story of China’s struggle to become “modern”, a story that still continues: he left a few hundred marble chops uncarved, as if awaiting the imprint of future shocks.
The 15-metre-long photograph Appeals Without Words (2006) shows a specific aspect of change’s cruelty. It depicts, at half life size, eighty-nine rural villagers queuing to present shang fang—petitions to the authorities. Standing or crouching with their backs to a wall, they are covered in a mix of black and gold paint, conveying their ties to the land, their poverty, and the idea that their long wait has turned them to statues. But their grubby squares of cardboard and paper are empty. Their patience is pointless, the artist suggests; no one is listening.