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Recherché - Wanted

Zhou Tiehai's desserts (Judge, Diplomat, Minister etc) Author: Elisa Cousseran 2009

Let us dare for a moment to venturecast an new unfettered eye onto the world around us. Even the most candid innocent among us could not help but see would see, ona world occupied on one side,  by a gigantic slaughterhouse, and on the other, by an equally massive whore house. In the middle are at work the painful and endless tectonics  of the needy, the craven and other species of needy parasitic jesters who, once they are done feasting off both worlds hardly hesitate to turn them into easy and lucrative business ventures.

Artists are few that still dare work against this nerve-wracking vision. Some have let Political Correctness banish them into obscurity where, from the dark corners of the microcosm of their studios, they find comfort in noting the minimal damage caused by their brushes. Others, stars in the artistic firmament, take pride in offering an advertiser’s interpretation of this startling reality. Once the entertainment provided by the latter wears off, we are left disappointed, frustrated, saddened even, by the resignation of the former.  

Zhou Tiehai, the advocate of just causes, and his loyal intellectual confectioner manage, using every available ruse, concealment and metaphor, the salutary artistic feat that we no longer dared hope for : to extracting delight from decay. Through Recherché and the Pastry Series/Série Patissière that ensues, two contemporary heroes, two survivors of the surrounding mediocrity strive, swimming upstream of the common current practice, through using intellectual rigour, hard work and  imagination, to turn the vain comedy of humanity into an oh! so flavourful display of pastries. and, directing a cannibalistic catharsis, they grub upconsumegrub up its dire actors : from the diplomat to the cabinet minister, from the bar girl to the judge, the detective to the jester, the disgusting and enfeeble dignitaries of the state along with their official suck upssycophants are reborn into candied and tempting recipes, so sweet they finally become edible, even – a wonderful surprise – delicious ! To absolve the bitterness of a civil servant with a moist sponge, to wash away the injustice of an unfair trial in a pool of fruit, to confront the iniquity practiced in a ministry with the genius of this self-taught confectioner.

Far from admitting defeat to the cunning tricks of an unassailable establishment, Zhou Tiehai and his muse not only refuse to submit. , They they fight, . and iIn this fight, they successfully bypass the banal and media-friendly ploys to create their own delightful weapons. This feast of desserts made up of leaders of the Republic will be either desired or rejected, particularly by those eager for "ready-to-eat". We are not here to look at fast-food cakes – otherwise known as Pop-Art. We meticulously eliminate all obvious intellectual shortcuts, the sexy images and their easy and vulgar impact ; we launch an enquiry into the origins of confection and linguistics, we look pursue the legends, the history, we invent them even! while While always carefully avoiding language commonplace and anglicisms. Had we wanted to appeal to the greater number, to rally those against whom we sought revenge, we would have opted for artistic profitability and the work would not be titled Recherché. We would simply have written, in capital letters and Playbill font: "WANTED".  

Now imagine if you will the attempt of some ordinary and miserable imbecile, of those usually content with their own blend of ignorance and arrogance, wholeheartedly engaging in the reading of the texts that constitute the core of the work. Uneasiness would coil within the disturbed reader and fill the air as they begin to perceive a critic of important, political public figures. They would disdainfully forsake the chore, their faces showing an exhaustion that fails to dissimulate their worrying illiteracy. They would simply abandon the search, abandon Recherché.

Recherché targets a fast disappearing type of audience. It is, in its original version, a gargantuan multimedia work : writing, photography, painting, sculpture, performance, the soundtrack, the words, the paintings, the farandole of characters and the endless plot twists, a feast of cakes – sometimes real, sometimes resin reproductions – where French institutions are playfully mocked. Never had Chinese contemporary art appeared so creative, so festive, so pleasurable. The work becomes a biennale : from condos into halls, stages into mezzanines, warehouses into "Kunsthalle", from "Unlimited" to "Subliminal", we show the construction of idealistic and knowing souls. Recherché : the confectionary rebellion of two dissenters.

Zhou Tiehai gives a voice to the insurgents of quality and, through Recherché, offers them a chance to seek revenge, a dish here served warm or cold, but always as dessert. The insurgents, just like children, enjoy stories : Recherché is composed of four existing pieces, and a fifth, la Caroleuse calling in the rest of the epic. Seven other cakes, seven other stories will follow – until we can take no more ? No, until, by dint of gourmand invention, of refinement and elegance, of candied finds and confectionary humour, all that will remain of this corrupt world is a memory, whose recollection alone will seem incongruous and insignificant within this new, fresh, sweet and ideal universe, so much so that it will fade and, much like the hair of a fallen angel, leave no trace on the pink puffy robes of a curvaceous Religieuse.

To be continued…

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