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Inquisition Valley


Beiqiu Museum of Contemporary Art is honored to announce that we will present the artist Zhang Yi’s solo project “Inquisition Valley”, curated by Yao Siqing, in the second phase of tunnel project in 2023.

Mountains are towering, whereas valleys are hollows between two mountains. Zhang Yi’s personal project ‘Inquisition Valley’ was inspired by her survey of space and history in the Beiqiu Museum of Contemporary Art and Nanjing.  The museum is built against Beiji Pavilion; known as the place of teaching humanities and compiling classics in the ancient capital of six dynasties, and famed as ‘the place with the best customs on the east of the Yangtze River’.  In this project, the artist images the “original highlands” of humanities in history as a low, dark and closed place. Meanwhile, it also inverts the ritual of  ‘曝书/Pushu - giving books an airing’ of classic elegance semantically, to create a satire of exposing books to scotching sun and a barrier to reading, for the purpose of echoing the realistic context that of anti-intellectualism, and satirizes the narrower and duller sphere of culture in reality.


Inquisition Valley, Zhang Yi, 2023. Image from Beiqiu Museum of Contemporary Art


Inquisition Valley, Zhang Yi, 2023. Image from Beiqiu Museum of Contemporary Art

As materials, old books collected from Nanjing were ‘penalized’ by splitting, bundling, cutting and soaking, on which Zhang Yi spent a month building the mottled and complex scene of ‘Inquisition Valley’, where vulgar literature and official history are integrated into a whole and spring grass, and autumn reeds emerge and perish along calligraphy rubbings. Throughout history, books, as a medium of civilized information, have been repeatedly banned and destroyed. However, the human wisdom contained in the classics also remains the cornerstone of civilized consciousness. The question of whether knowledge is a prison or nourishment has always tested the judgement of different minds.

The completion of the ‘Inquisition Valley’ scene depends on the opening performance. This performance further theatricalize the tunnel space, where the ‘people of Inquisition Valley’ perform their absurd acts. The artist’s portrayal of these people was inspired by the history of the Six Dynasties and the Ming Dynasty, the two dynasties that are most easily associated with Nanjing; however, the frenzied and numb state of the people was derived more widely from two pedigrees, namely, King Zhou of the Shang Dynasty and the Roman emperor Nero and the various people of conquered nations who pretended to be insane. ‘Inquisition Valley’, however, is a fictional place where human actions activate and manifest the characteristics of the space and surroundings and, in turn, influence the spiritual power of the people inside.

This is not the first time that Zhang Yi has experimented with old books as materials. As early as her time as a student in the United States, she expressed the discomfort of cross-cultural communication and the cultural nostalgia that arose from this discomfort. As a result, she has become knowledgeable about the various forms that books and their pages can take. Nonetheless, with ‘Inquisition Valley’, it is indeed the first time she has expanded this technique into the law of constructing an entire art space to complete a dystopian critical picture.

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