World Art Collections Exhibition
Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts

In Just a Blink of an Eye
Performance featuring Chinese students at the Sainsbury Centre as part of China China China !!!

Chinese students from the University of East Anglia (UEA), Norwich, are participating in the China China China!!! exhibition at the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts this season. This week, and throughout the exhibition (runs until 3 May), students are performing In Just a Blink of an Eye. This unusual performance artwork presents the students as if frozen in time, in positions which appear to defy gravity.

The performances take place outside the Sainsbury Centre every Thursday at 12.30pm, to coincide with the exhibition lunchtime talks, and on the first Sunday of each month at 1pm, to coincide with First Sunday for families (weather permitting). It is free to see the performance and booking is not required. Admission to the gallery and permanent collections is free but entry to China China China!!! is charged.

Each performance of In Just a Blink of an Eye requires three Chinese students to rest on concealed metal frames. The piece deceives the eye, as the frames are dug deep into the soil and are hidden by everyday contemporary Chinese clothing. The students slide themselves into the clothes and rest on the frames so that their bodies appear to be suspended mid-motion and to be defying gravity.

“Getting into position on the frame is a challenge and a team effort. Once in position it’s surprisingly comfortable, although it’s a strange sensation – you feel like you might fall even though you know you can’t. It’s good fun – most people who pass by and see us just start laughing!”
– Nicole Chao, Paris Jia and Rita Xu, Chinese students, UEA.

The installation by artist Xu Zhen has been produced for the China China China!!! exhibition by Davide Quadrio in collaboration with the Sainsbury Centre.

“For China China China!!! at the Sainsbury Centre, I added this recent piece by Xu Zhen which had previously been exhibited in Beijing and in New York. This is the first time that this work has been presented to the European public in an original out-door version. The subtitle of the exhibition is ‘Contemporary Chinese art beyond the global market’ – this installation echoes this. It stands as a memento of a long instability that the worldwide financial market and consequentially the art market did not want to, or have to, face until recently. It holds particular significance in today’s worldwide economic climate. Even though the original concept of Xu Zhen’s was probably not related to this matter, I like to think of it as a sort of prelude of the exhibition and as a comment on how the ideas behind the exhibition will develop”
– Davide Quadrio, one of the exhibition curators.

Xu Zhen is a significant personality in the Chinese contemporary art world. Trained in a design school, he started working as an artist with an incredibly clear vision about his definition of art. Over the last few decades Xu Zhen has been creating some of the most refreshing and irreverent works of his generation.

The Sainsbury Centre has been working closely with colleagues at UEA to engage the body of approximately 800 Chinese students with the China China China !!! exhibition. In Just a Blink of an Eye, which requires Chinese performers, presented an excellent opportunity to build on this work.

“The Sainsbury Centre, as UEA’s museum, always works with colleagues and students in a whole range of creative and unusual ways which go way beyond the normal teaching relationships. Working with international students is great, because we all learn so much from each other about the different cultural environments in which we live and, often, about the objects in our own collections”
– Nichola Johnson, Director, Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts.

The China China China!!! exhibition further underpins the UEA’s current links with China.

“I am delighted the Sainsbury Centre is hosting this ambitious exhibition. It chimes very well with the University’s engagement with China, and it helps us communicate our connections with China to our local community and key stakeholders further afield. Our students from China are particularly excited to see these striking contemporary artworks on campus. The exhibition will help emphasise that, although China’s burgeoning economic growth is founded on manufacturing and technology, the traditional importance of art in China is also reflected in its explosion onto the modern world stage”
– Professor Trevor Davies, Pro-Vice Chancellor for Research, Enterprises and Engagement.