Zhao Bandi has made his reputation with staged scenarios where he and his toy panda play out everyday situations. Sometimes these consist of scenes from the life of a single father. Other times, the panda assumes the role of partner and lover. The panda is treated and acts as a 'real' character with a voice of its own that appears as speech bubbles in the photos. Zhao Bandi is brilliant at both playing with and being played by the media culture. The works are humorous, subversive, critical and seductive. Addressing the idea of media and mass reproduction, Zhao Bandi suggests that the boundary between image and reality has broken down. He emphasizes the images' potential for transformation, but also the power of the manipulating gesture: it takes so little to change the value and significance of an image.
Zhao Bandi's enchantment with the banality of modern life could seem condescending if not for the extraordinarily sincerity with which he goes about the entire theatrical set-up concerning his panda. Recently, the artist has paid special attention to state-endorsed public service announcements. These are often characterized by humorless didactic instructing people on how to behave in relation to everything from personal hygiene to SARS. Zhao Bandi appropriates, reverses and rejects the official message of these announcements. His striking images, which are presented as calendar pages, subway posters, light-boxes, and in other public places in Shanghai, mix the format of communist propaganda with the glossy advertisements that are spreading so rapidly in China. Interaction with Zhao Bandi's pieces causes one to be susceptible to the special pathos and the pleasure of the meaninglessness of it all.
Although Zhao Bandi's work frequently walks the fine line between fiction and reality, there are times when the two coincide: his video, "A Tale of Love Gone Wrong for Pandaman" is more than parody. In 2003, Zhao Bandi sued two media businesses for publishing his “Block SARS Defend the Homeland” poster without acknowledging his copyright. During the hearing, Zhao Bandi sits, forlorn, with his Panda. At the end, he reads as evidence a letter from his ex-lover, in which she explains why she is leaving him. She describes Zhao Bandi's relationship to the toy-panda as being sick, and denies that the SARS poster could have anything to do with his personality. Because of the letter (or despite it) Zhao Bandi wins the case. It's reality that produces fiction that produces reality.
Zhao Bandi was born in 1966 in Beijing, where he lives and works. He graduated from the Beijing Central Academy of Fine Arts in 1988. Since 1993, his works have been shown at international exhibitions, including the Sydney Biennale (1998), 48th Venice Biennale (1999) and 1st Guangzhou Triennale (2002). His project "Zhao Bandi & Panda" has been on public display in Shanghai, Milan, London and elsewhere. In recent years, 'Bandi Panda Fashion Show' design and curated by him has been on show in Beijing(2007), Shanghai(2008), Paris(2009) and Arizona, U.S.A (2009).