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Interview with Hu Xiangqian
by Robin Peckham

Hong Kong, May 2012: On the evening of Friday 18 May 2012, Beijing-based young artist Hu Xiangqian will serenade guests on a yacht trip. Something of a legend in Chinese art circles, the content of his performances and other work is always hotly debated: Hu is probably best known for a video in which he tans himself for weeks on end in an attempt to make his skin the same color as that of his African immigrant friends, although he is also equally loved for an oneiric short video in which the little green man and the little red man on a “WALK / DONT WALK” sign come down and dance in the street together. More recently, he has been giving performances at the Xiangqian Museum, orally describing his understandings and misunderstandings of seminal art historical moments. Born in Guangdong in 1983, Hu is a rising star; I spoke with him on the eve of his trip to Hong Kong to find out what he was up to--only to be rebuffed by his predictably if suddenly taciturn personality. Loquacious when it comes to everything but his own practice, this is one performance that may be better seen than described.

Hu Xiangqian, Two Men, 2008 Single-channel video, 3 min 41 sec; Courtesy of Long March Space.

Robin Peckham: You’re coming to Hong Kong this month during the art fair to deliver a performance on an evening cruise organized by Long March Space. Can you describe the project?

Hu Xiangqian: I wrote a song, and put it together with some Beijing musicians. It’s a complete song, the content of which is basically all kinds of curses, plus self-mockery. It includes different languages from Cantonese and Leizhou dialect to Mandarin, plus a few English words. That’s it.

RP: Is this your first time coming to Hong Kong for an exhibition?

HX: No, I’ve done a few.

RP: Why choose to do this particular project here?

HX: I chose this piece because I wanted to perform as a singer, and then this opportunity came along.

RP: Like so many of the artists who once worked in Guangdong, you too have moved to Beijing. Does returning to a Cantonese-speaking area to show your work feel different now?

HX: No, no feeling. Or maybe I just haven’t felt it yet.

Hu Xiangqian, Xiangqian Art Museum (Beijing), 2010, Single-channel video, 14 min 31 sec; Courtesy of Long March Space.

RP: You’ve recently started working with the Beijing gallery Long March Space. What new projects are you working on at the moment?

HX: I’m preparing for an exhibition at Long March in June.

RP: Your work has always been relatively casual, laid back, humble in some way. How does it feel doing exhibitions now at such a major commercial gallery?

HX: Making work is very different from making an exhibition. Actually whether it’s a commercial gallery or a museum, an exhibition is an exhibition. No difference.

Robin Peckham

ArtSlant would like to thank Hu Xiangqian for his assistance in making this interview possible.

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