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28 Chinese

To Raise The Water Level in a Fishpond (Distant)
by Zhang Huan (Chinese, b. 1965)
C-print on Fuji archival paper, edition 2 of 15

Courtesy of Rubell Family Collection, Miami.
© Zhang Huan.

This iconic photograph captures the second part of a three-part performance by the artist and a group of immigrant workers. First, the men stood in silence around a pond's edge. Then, they stood in the pond, their bodies displacing water to raise the water level. Finally, they formed a line in the water, creating a human wall to divide the pond. On the heels of performance works that placed the body in extreme and mentally challenging situations, this work connects humans and nature with profound simplicity.

"In the summer of 1997, I created To Raise the Water Level in a Fishpond. I invited more than forty immigrant workers to participate. They came from all over the countryside and ranged in age from twenty to sixty. Some worked in moving companies and construction while others sold fish. I went to many shabby tents (their homes) to find them. At the time, I lived within walking distance from the fishpond. The immigrant workers didn't understand what I was doing but simply followed my instructions. When I saw them, they reminded me of my uncles and brothers from my childhood." —Zhang Huan