Contemporary Chinese Performance Art: An Interview with Yingmei Duan

Yingmei Duan (b. 1969) left her home country China in 1998, after being a member of the underground Beijing East Village group between 1993-1995 where she took part in the collective performance work To Add One Meter to an Anonymous Mountain. The experience as a member of the avant-garde circle prompted Duan to turn towards the medium of performance, which developed further in Germany where she worked with Marina Abramović and filmmaker Christoph Schlingensief. Duan works with her own body as a primary means of expression, in which temporal extension, spontaneity, and the inclusion of the audience play an important role. As a curious observer of life and people’s desires and fears, she has concentrated her creativity on performance art and researching the medium for the past twenty years. Based in Germany, Duan travels around the world to present her performance, often collaborating with a wide range of people and probing into themes of cultural shifts and social constraints. - Yoojin Choi, Assistant Curator, East Asia, Victoria and Albert Museum

Yingmei Duan, To Add One Meter to an Anonymous Mountain, 1995, collaborative performance by the Beijing East-Village artists, 20 mins. Photo credits: Lü Nan, Courtesy of Yingmei Duan and Hanmi Gallery

ELEANOR STEPHENSON: When did you become curious about performance art and how did you make the transition from painting to performance art?