Throughout her artistic career, Peng Yu has deliberately incorporated provocative materials into her work, ranging from live animals to human flesh, bone, and oil. Peng’s use of the human body, often in collaboration with the artist Sun Yuan, prompts difficult questions on mortality, morality, and ethics.
Continuing the exploration of materials derived from the human body, the video Exile documents a performance in which the artist poured seven liters of pure human oil (extracted from cadavers) into a polluted Beijing river. Focusing on the water’s oil-coated surface, the video captures the delicate oil-slick patterns that appear on its reflections. For Peng, human fat is a physical manifestation of excessive consumption. By dissolving human fat among the river’s other pollutants, Peng’s performance alludes to the unbridled human impact on the environment.
“Materials must be of great significance to the work. Otherwise, they should not be used . . . if the materials in your work play a more important role, letting people experience its specialness is valuable.”—Peng Yu 1
Peng Yu, “Interviewee: Sun Yuan & Peng Yu,” undated, accessed September 10, 2018.
Betacam SP video, 3:12 minutes running time
Collection M HKA/Museum of Contemporary Art, Antwerp