55. Venice Biennale

Friday,  31 May – Sunday, 2­­­ June 2013



May 31:US Pavilion, Giardini – 4pm
British Pavilion, Giardini  – 5pm

June 1:German Pavilion, Giardini  – 4pm
Chinese Pavilion, Arsenale  – 5pm

June 2:Piazza San Marco  – 4pm
City of Venice – 5 pm onwards

I sensed a great, infinite scream run through nature, Edvard Munch (1892)

Inspired by Edvard Munch’s most famous painting ‘The Scream’, Mad For Real’s eponymous performance reactivates this iconic picture into a live, vocalised expression of contemporary angst. Whereas Munch’s screams came from the madhouse or the abattoir of the 1890s, Cai Yuan and Jian Jun Xi’s Scream invites participation 110 years later in a globalised context of economic and social uncertainty. Resonating with well-known texts of Chinese modernity since the May Fourth movement, such as famous author Lu Xun’s volume Call to Arms (吶喊) of 1922, Mad For Real’s Scream reaches across time and culture into a single, communal burst of humanity.

Born in China in 1956 and 1962 respectively, Cai Yuan and Jian Jun Xi have been living and working in the United Kingdom since the 1980s. Cai Yuan trained in oil painting at Nanjing College of Art, Chelsea College of Art and the Royal College of Art. Jian Jun Xi trained at the Central Academy of Applied Arts in Beijing and later at Goldsmiths College. They started working as a performance duo in the late nineties with their action ‘Two Artists Jump on Tracey Emin’s Bed’ (1999) at Tate Britain’s Turner Prize Exhibition.

Cai Yuan and Jian Jun Xi, aka “Mad for Real”, are renowned Chinese artists known for their pioneering performances and interventions in public spaces. Their work acts as a dynamic dialogue with institutional and cultural power structures, taking the idea of the ready-made and transforming it within contemporary, everyday situations. The duo also creates installations that reflect upon the phenomenon of globalisation and the role of modern China in the 21st century.

Mad For Real’s oeuvre has continually questioned the relationship of power to the individual. Using a position of resistance, Cai and Xi have consistently produced work which is necessarily oppositional, yet its warmth and humour also acts to draw viewers in. Their performances have taken place as radical gestures, calling to mind notorious artists of earlier radical art movements but the historical, linguistic and political context of their practice is often related specifically to their origins: China.

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