Born in Peking in 1963, today Yin Xiuzhen lives and works in China’s capital, and in the same way that a phoenix rises from its ashes she has fundamentally redefined herself. The architecture and infrastructure of such a metropolis no longer fulfils the function of carrying memories. What is called ‘home’ today is completely brought to the ground tomorrow. Confronted daily with these transformation processes, in her installations the artist not only documents these personal reminders, but also creates a landscape of recollection into which she invites the beholders either to let their own histories come alive, or to look for the tracks of unknown events.
Yin works repeatedly with worn clothing which she arranges in rooms and outdoors, both forming lampshades and cementing it. Favourite jumpers showing signs of wear are joined with shoes from childhood days, evoking memories of playing outside. "Do you still know, do you still know..." could be the acclaimed subtext for such an installation. In Knitting Wool (1995) the basic intentions of the artist articulate themselves: piles of hand knitted jumpers which have partly unravelled, a multicoloured mountain of yarn lies on the floor and two knitting needles have already begun to finish off a new piece of clothing. Through this process evidence of the past arises again in the future, both stored and conserved by it. Is this idealism and/ or working through a mourning process?
In the photography installation Shoes with Butter (1996) Yin Xiuzhen bestows the function of preserving a memory upon worn shoes. Pairs of shoes lie next to an almost parched riverbed, abandoned and filled with butter. Tibet’s sparse mountainous landscape, the blue sky and the clouds which are mirrored in the pools of water give the scene the character of a still life. The history behind this place is not explained. What happened here?
The room installation Beijing Opera (2001) is dedicated to relics of everyday Chinese culture. Invited to sit oneself down on the typically Chinese low wooden stools, the beholder’s view falls upon large photographs which portray scenes of people passing time. Amidst the thunderous din of innumerable building sites and masses of honking cars, the hardened elderly Pekinger nevertheless succeeds in enjoying his sunset years. In Beijing Opera # 3 two Majong players sit in a bare grey alleyway, however the sad ambiance does nothing to diminish their pleasure. The men playing cards in Beijing Opera # 2 are also completely absorbed in what they are doing. In the summery park, birdcages which have been brought along are hung in the trees. Instead of birds, one of China’s next generation can be seen taking a small dog for a walk. As well as this, in Beijing Opera # 1 one can see an older man with a penchant for traditional Chinese instruments singing in the open air.
With her Portable Cities (2003) Yin Xiuzhen furthers her stocktaking analysis of the present. The Asian city landscapes of Singapore and Shanghai tread alongside western capitals such as Berlin and Vancouver in suitcase format. By creating a patchwork out of articles of clothing, the artist joins together memories of humans and events, forming images of cities in miniature. The noises and melodies of these places reverberate from the depths of these suitcases. What Yin Xiuzhen achieves with her ‘portable cities’ lacks a material counterpart: her suitcases award duration to this experience.
Text: Ulrike Münter, 2006
In 2006 the artist filled an entire room with her installation International Airport Terminal 1. In doing so Yin Xiuzhen presented all the characteristic elements of airport equipment, evoking modern transit areas which hardly differ from each other and thereby arousing the impression of people and places, as if it was an ‘anti-individualistic’ cause. The materials used by the artist for this project form a remarkable contradiction: she worked exclusively with used materials which she sewed together, whose softness starkly contrasts the smooth, polished and cold surface textures of a real airport area. In this way not only does Yin Xiuzhen deliberately infiltrate the illusion character and artificialness of her installation, but also through the use of used clothing she simultaneously evokes the personal experiences and traits of the wearer. In doing so at the same time the artist returns elements of her own specific identity to this anonymous area.