Xu Zhen is the maverick of the Chinese art world. With no patience for conventional, out-moded ways, his urgent desire to confront every value of a society he perceives as banal, hypocritical, or plain conventional, extends to his own approach and practice as an artist. Combining a critical intelligence with fierce humour, his works in many media are often unsettling, with an undertone of violence that delight as they provoke
8848 Minus 1.86 combines these elements in an ambitious work focusing on Mount Everest. The British claimed in 1856 that the summit was 8,848 metres in height, a measurement that despite new and conflicting data still officially stands. In May 2005, Xu Zhen led an ascent on Everest, and to test the veracity of the measurements, succeeded in removing the summit of the mountain, reducing its height by 186cm, Xu Zhen's own height. Various official and independent surveys since have consistently shown that Everest is not as high as had been thought, pointing, perhaps, to evidence of global warming, or a shift in the tectonic plates, though its cause still remains unproven.