Yan Xing: Performance of a Massacre
29 Jan 2016

The Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam presents a new performance by Beijing and Los Angeles-based artist Yan Xing. In Performance of a Massacre the artist addresses the problematics of remembrance and representation through the re-staging of current and past dramatic events.

Teijin Auditorium, Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam
8 - 9 pm
Museum entrance fee + 2,50


Yan Xing directly – yet carefully – reflects on historical tragedies by confusing the viewpoints of both victims and perpetrators. By interlacing the performance with extracts of authentic reports of recent events, the artist disrupts the representation of the present and the past. The performance is enacted by 37 performers, trying to hide in the various galleries throughout the museum. They are a group of high school students who have been undergoing training at a winter camp nearby. Tensely and nervously, they talk to the audience, each from his or her own standpoint, about a massacre. Suddenly, one of the students calls out to the other students for help and the audience will witness a drastic change of scenery.

The performers recite personal stories from tragic events. Perspectives, personas, and locations get interchanged. What begins as faceless narratives, represented by softly spoken words, gradually leads to the representation of an unjustified and inescapable event and a group plea, criticism, doubt, or inquiry for acknowledgement of collective responsibility. By questioning our moral considerations for reporting historical tragedies, Yan Xing critically examines what it means to have a cultural memory, how memory gets mediated through the manipulation and organization of language, and the (re-)presentation of public events. Although the work is politically ambiguous, he says the work he is trying to achieve has or should have no political slant and shows the powerlessness of the audience when it comes to the mediation of memory.

More about the artist

Yan Xing (1986, Chongqing) lives and works in Beijing and Los Angeles. Yan Xing’s work combines diverse media such as performance, video, photography, and installation. His works circulate around large themes such as negativity, resistance, and order, as well as exploring their complex interrelations. 

In 2012 Yan Xing won the Best Young Artist Award from CCAA (Chinese Contemporary Art Award) and also received a nomination for the Future Generation Art Prize from the Victor Pinchuk Foundation. Yan Xing has exhibited and performed extensively; recent major exhibitions include 3rd Ural Industrial Biennial of Contemporary Art, Yekaterinburg, Russia (2015); 28 Chinese, Rubell Family Collection, Miami, USA (2013); and ON | OFF: China’s Young Artists in Concept and Practice, Ullens Center for Contemporary Art (UCCA), Beijing, China (2013). 


Performance of a Massacre (2016) was initiated by former Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam curator Hendrik Folkerts (Documenta 14, Kassel). Research curator: Britte Sloothaak (Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam). Producer: Henri Sandront (Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam).