Zhang Huan journeys to Death Valley to give a rare insight into his life and practice, in Act V of “The Performers”, GQ’s video series with Gucci.
To Zhang Huan, one of China's most provocative artists, the strongest medium of art creation and expression is the body. "It’s the only direct way through which I come to know society and society comes to know me,” he once said.
Born in 1965, a year before the Cultural Revolution, Huan is known for boundary-pushing performance pieces and sculptures that have seen him suspend himself in chains from the ceiling of his studio and build a 16-feet tall Buddha using temple ash. Huan blurs Eastern and Western traditions.
For the fifth installment of GQ’s video series with Gucci, “The Performers”, the artist embarked on a meditative journey across California’s extreme desert of contrasts, Death Valley. Seeing it as a Western parallel to the Himalayan Mountains–a reoccurring influence in his work—Huan was so drawn to the landscape, he painted a rare artwork in tribute.
The short film shows Huan wander off in search of the desert’s mysticism, while engaging with everything that moves or grows, from plants and rocks to sand and wind. The viewer visualises the very internal act of finding inspiration and translating it into art. “To me, Death Valley is not about death, it’s about rebirth,” says the deeply spiritual artist. “Natural landscape is the cycle of life.”