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Still from an interview with Yin Xiuzhen
Still from the Smart Museum's interview with Yin Xiuzhen.

Yin Xiuzhen 尹秀珍

Chinese, born 1963

Artist Profile

Born and raised in Beijing, Yin Xiuzhen grew up in one of the city’s many siheyuan, or courtyard houses, that were demolished during the urban reconstruction efforts conducted in the 1990s. Many traditional houses were removed to make room for gleaming high-rises and new infrastructures. Sensitively reflecting on the transformations around her, Yin produced a number of installations that incorporated the forgotten remnants of such destruction.

For Transformation, Yin collected 128 cement roof tiles from the thousands that were discarded after the demolition of these siheyuan in her Beijing neighborhood. On each tile, she affixed a photograph documenting the vibrancy of the neighborhood and its changing character. For Yin, these unconventional materials embodied the memories of a place and time period that was rapidly disappearing. She has explained this process, stating:

When you take the rubble directly into the works, these materials, with their experiences and histories, speak for themselves. They have individual and collective memories, as well as many traces of life. When these materials emerge in a different environment, a vein between true reality and the artwork forms. It formalizes real life and allows objects to speak, to have their own voice.1

Yin Xiuzhen. Photo courtesy of Pace Gallery.
“Originally, the tiles were connected together, so it looks like a whole, but after demolishing it, its support is gone. Now I am the one who gives it a new support, and because the location has changed, some of its meanings will change, too.”
—Yin Xiuzhen 2

Footnotes

  • 1

    “Hou Hanru in Conversation with Yin Xiuzhen,” in Hou Hanru et al., Yin Xiuzhen (London: Phaidon, 2015), 15.

  • 2

    Interview with Yin Xiuzhen, June 28, 2019, conducted by Nancy P. Lin, translated by Greg Young.

Works on View

Wrightwood 659

Transformation, 1997

Black-and-white photographs mounted on tiles
Installation variable with 128 tiles, each: 7 1/16 x 7 1/16 x 1 7/8 in. (17.9 x 17.9 x 4.8 cm)

Collection of the artist, courtesy of Pace Gallery

Yin Xiuzhen, Transformation, 1997. Installation view, The Allure of Matter: Material Art from China, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 2019–20. Photo © Museum Associates/LACMA.
Yin Xiuzhen, Transformation, 1997. Installation view, The Allure of Matter: Material Art from China, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 2019–2020. Video still comissioned by the Smart Museum of Art.
Yin Xiuzhen, Transformation, 1997. Still from video commissioned by the Smart Museum of Art.
Yin Xiuzhen, Transformation, 1997. Detail. Still from video commissioned by the Smart Museum of Art.
Yin Xiuzhen, Transformation, 1997. Detail. Photo courtesy of the artist and Pace Gallery.
Yin Xiuzhen, Transformation, 1997. Detail. Photo courtesy of the artist and Pace Gallery.

Working Process

Yin Xiuzhen salvaging tiles from a demolition site near her home in Beijing. Photo courtesy of the artist and Pace Gallery.
Yin Xiuzhen preparing to install Sunning the Tiles (1998), another artwork that features salvaged tiles and black-and-white photographs. Photo courtesy of the artist and Pace Gallery.
Yin Xiuzhen installing Sunning the Tiles (1998) on the rooftop of an old hutong in Beijing. Photo courtesy of the artist and Pace Gallery.
Yin Xiuzhen, Transformation, 1997. Installation view, Beijing, 1997. Photo courtesy of the artist and Pace Gallery.
Yin Xiuzhen, Transformation, 1997. Installation view, Beijing, 1997. Photo courtesy of the artist and Pace Gallery.
Visitors walking through an installation of Transformation (1997) in Beijing. Photo courtesy of the artist and Pace Gallery.