Payne Zhu works with model and live-streaming host Mengnan extensively to co-create this trilogy project. A year ago, the artist helped Mengnan to become an Internet celebrity with his visual and marketing strategies. After her success, Zhu intervenes her medium with staged performances. Two of the performance/installation works took place live at the Power Station of Art as part of the Nightmare of Exhibition Part II’s exhibition program. However, Mengnan and her team later decided to end the collaboration having the feeling of being manipulated.
Payne Zhu created an episode of “kidnapping” during the opening of the exhibition. He kidnapped an Internet celebrity who makes a living by cashing other people’s desire (through her streaming broadcast channel). The viewers who were supposed to watch performance that night were stimulated by the sensual kidnapping, but they also somehow participated in the art opening as well, albeit completely confused. They saw Zhu’s act as part of promoting and dismissed it till the end. Mengnan’s was a strange intervention of the opening of the exhibition — her erotic performance was going on in the same time with the speech given by the museum officials.
An erotic live-streaming host and a Rinpoche (living Buddha) have something in common: they have to constantly invent new desire for their supporters/fans/believers to buy in. They are both micro-demand-supply systems. And they are both strange guests for an art museum. Payne Zhu wanders between these two spaces of desire. He invited a Rinpoche to come to the museum to give a speech about his spiritual life, his views in Buddhism, and his mildly reformist ideas. Giving religious speeches is essentially how he makes living. On the other side of the same space in the museum, Mengnan was creating images of desire and transforming them to exchange value (receiving “gifts” from her viewers which can be cashed out). She stimulated the viewers by performing sexually indicted banana-eating, in the middle of which Zhu interrupted and violently broke off the bananas with Mengnan. The viewers were enraged. The two performances went on at the same time, creating an overwhelmingly bizarre situation in the museum space.