Public Art Project

Collection Denver Art Museum: Gift from the Collection of Vicki and Kent Logan.
Installation at the Riverfront Park Plaza,
Made Possible by the Riverfront Park Community Foundation, Denver, USA
2001, Tian Qing Stone, 26 x 136 x 60 inches, 8.5 tons

Q: Who is the person in the sculpture?

The sculpture shows the artist himself, Zhang Huan. He was born in China and moved to the United States in 1998, at the age of 33, because he wasn’t allowed to practice art the way he wanted to in his native country.

Q: Why is he lying on his stomach?

The year he arrived in New York, Zhang performed the remarkable feat of lying naked, face-down on a block of ice for almost 10 minutes in P.S.1, New York. This stone sculpture depicts that original performance art event.

Q: What is he trying to say with this work?

The work, Zhang says, is about his experience coming to America and his fear of New York City. "I want to fell ’the city’ with my body, just as I feel the ice." His downward-facing pose, with hands pressed toward the ground, calls to mind the pose of pilgrims in their spiritual practice in Tibet.

Q: Has he lost his mind?

He actually hopes to lose his mind. When he puts his body in extremely uncomfortable situations, he tries to distance himself from his condition. As he put it, "let my mind leave my body." When this happens, he can’t feel any pain. Zhang says that "when the mind returns to the body, there comes an ever stronger feeling. But, for him, this is a more spiritual state of being.

Q: Why is he naked?

Zhang says, "Only in its full nakedness can the body be truly felt." He thought he had to be naked to feel the full severity of the cold ice against his body and to arrive at a spiritual condition.