Although coming from different generational, cultural and geographical backgrounds –Beijing, 1989 and Paris, 1961 – the works share a common theme in the act of ‘shooting’.
Xiao Lu’s Dialogue was first shown in a group exhibition titled China/ Avant-Garde in Beijing in 1989 that showcased around 300 artworks by emerging artists. On the opening day of the exhibition, Xiao secretly brought a gun to the gallery and shot two bullets at the central mirror panel of her installation. This unauthorised ‘shooting performance’ led to the entire exhibition being closed by the authorities. A still image of the artist pointing a gun at the work exists to document the event. Her action was followed four months later by the Tiananmen Square protest, where several hundred demonstrators were killed by military troops in Beijing. Although not directly linked, Xiao’s work became an iconic action associated with the antigovernment protest.
Niki de Saint Phalle’s Shooting Painting is one of a series of works by the artist titled Tirs, meaning fire or gunshot in French. Each work involved the artist or invited audience shooting at the canvas. This painting was shot by American artists Robert Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns. The base of the painting is a wooden board covered in a layer of grey plaster reinforced with wire mesh. It was then layered with textured white plaster, concealing small bags of liquid paint. When the bags of paint were hit by bullets, the paint cascaded down the plaster surface.
Curated by Sook-Kyung Lee with Katy Wan and Helen O'Malley