XU Zhen's new project effectively manipulates, and invents upon a delicate matrix of power relations. His installation, thus, is a full-scale replica of what is alleged to be a proto-typical Chinese convenient store. One of these only to be meticulously copied 1:1 and re-named by the artist, and finally transplanted across the Pacific and set up in the United States. With their easily recognizable corporate logos, and with the immense frequency of their layout scattered in thousands throughout the country, they have become unavoidable icons in the Chinese urban landscape. Open 24 hours a day, these franchised stores provide consumers with all imaginable basic products needed. Shelves filled with an eclectic mix of well-known international goods - such as soft drinks, cigarettes and dairy - inter-mingle with Chinese pickles, dried fruits, toiletry, newspapers, and rice-wine.
Upon entering XU Zhen's installation, however, one immediately senses a difference. This store is filled with packages and wrappings containing, literally, nothing! Everything is empty, just shells. The false appearance of the shop, or of the ghostly merchandise as such, indicate that there is much more at stake than the obvious critique of exchange value. It is an artwork that is paradoxically defined by emptiness and lack of content, its most distinguished characteristic being hollowness. The ambiguous status of the supermarket, which has been stripped of all its defining qualities, seems to indicate that consumption, whether of food or images, is essential, but it also destroys.
By Sine Bepler