To Raise the Water Level in a Fish Pond
Zhang Huan, Chinese, born 1965
This photograph documents a performance piece in which the artist persuaded an anonymous group of rural day laborers to stand in a shallow pond in Beijing Park. Their action here is a literalization of a Chinese saying to the effect that one person cannot make a difference in a larger environment. However, it appears that Zhang Huan does not accept the maxim, for this gathering of individuals must, by the laws of physics, have had an effect on the overall level of the water. The exercise exudes an aura of futility; the participants look outward impassively at the artist and, by extension, at the viewer.