Highlight: Zhou Tao ‘Blue and Red’

Zhou Tao, China b.1976 / Blue and Red (still) 2014 / Single-channel HD video, 16:9, 24:25 mins, colour, sound, ed. 4/7 / Purchased 2015. Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art Foundation / Image courtesy: The artist and Vitamin Creative Space, Guangzhou

Recently acquired for the Collection, this video work demonstrates APT8 artist Zhou Tao’s use of editing techniques to combine two separate spaces into a new, meaningful ‘third’ space.

Based in Guangzhou, in China’s highly urbanised Pearl River Delta, Zhou Tao is part of a generation of Chinese artists born after the Cultural Revolution (1966–76) that is now coming to maturity. His primary medium is video, which he uses to document movement within given environments. Nonlinear and highly poetic, Zhou’s artworks combine the unscripted gestures of work and play with deliberate performative acts. Over a series of highly regarded videos the artist has created since 2011, the relationship between everyday actions and performance interventions is treated with increasing subtlety, to the degree that the two become indistinguishable. All this occurs in fascinating settings — a crumbling village amid towering skyscrapers, lush wetlands, a public square under citizen occupation — conflating the human and the topographic at the same time as a confusing artistic and quotidian gesture. Zhou’s more recent works use an editing technique to conflate two separate spaces into a new ‘third’ space where his narratives occur.

Shot between public squares in Guangzhou and Bangkok, Blue and Red 2014 is the fourth and most recent of Zhou’s mature video projects. Interweaving footage of the 2013–14 Occupy Bangkok protests with sequences of state and corporate-sponsored night-time spectacles in Guangzhou, for the first time Zhou directly represents an implied third space: the rusty silt run-off of Dabaoshan heavy metal mine in northern Guangdong province. The LED-washed skin of people in night footage of these urban squares registers as a luminous electric blue, while zinc contamination stains the sands and waters of Dabaoshan an alarming shade of red. Through oblique framing and agile editing, Zhou combines the surface of human skin with that of the land.

Blue and Red eschews cliché in depicting its subjects. Its presentation of the various entertainments of Guangzhou and the occupation sites of Bangkok are intentionally presented against expectation: the convivial games of Cantonese families are shot in such a way that their object is out of frame, directing attention to their abstract movements; and apart from a brief sequence of police confrontation, the Bangkok demonstrations are presented as largely quiet, laconic events, pictured during long passages of waiting and resting. Vast though their contexts may be — the Pearl River Delta megacity, a militarised state, irreversible environmental degradation — the tiny gestures and prosaic associations of daily life captured in these works remain pregnant with meaning.

Blue and Red represents the most recent development in Zhou Tao’s mature phase, which has developed across the video installations South Stone 2011, Collector 2012 and After Reality 2013. The work was commissioned for the artist’s 2014 solo show at the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre, which is adjacent to the square in which the protests took place, and it was awarded the inaugural Han Nefkins-BACC contemporary art prize. The work also attracted first prize from the Jury of the Ministry at the 61st International Short Film Festival in Oberhausen, and will feature in The Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art (APT) opening 21 November at both the Queensland Art Gallery (QAG) and Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA).



Zhou Tao, China b.1976 / Blue and Red (still) 2014 / Single-channel HD video, 16:9, 24:25 mins, colour, sound, ed. 4/7 / Purchased 2015. Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art Foundation / Images courtesy: The artist and Vitamin Creative Space, Guangzhou

The Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art (APT)
is the Gallery’s flagship exhibition focused on the work of Asia, the Pacific and Australia.
21 November 2015 – 10 April 2016

Exhibition Founding Sponsor: Queensland Government
Exhibition Principal Sponsor: Audi Australia