Exhibitions > 2014

The Cleaning Performance

The work, The Cleaning Performance was conceptualized and orchestrated by the artist, Wang Zhiyuan. It was part of Peach Blossom Spring | Cacotopia, an international contemporary exhibition, planned and organized by Australian curator, Reg Newitt, in Kui Yuan Gallery, Guangzhou. Kelvin Huang, Director of Kui Yuan Gallery, organized for some of the participating artists to present an academic forum in Guangzhou Academy of Fine Arts (GAFA) and jointly organized a series of students' workshops as a follow-up activity. The concept of The Cleaning Performance was to find a street and for several artists and students wearing 'fluorescent' vests to clean it. The cleanliness of Guangzhou's streets, presented a challenge to find a suitable location requiring street-cleaning. Following our investigations,the final choice for the performance act was the small Market Street on the opposite side of the main road from the Guangzhou Academy of Fine Arts. The length of the street is about 200 meters, the flow of people and the discarded rubbish outside of the market made for an ideal site.

The participants in the performance included the Beijing artist, Wang Zhiyuan, an Australian artist Jayne Dyer and an English artist, Wayne Warren, as well as students from the Guangzhou Academy of Fine Arts -- Liu Xiongwen, Ceng Jingbo, Liang Xiao Yue and Wu Jiafeng – with Reg Newitt assuming a watch over the belongings while the crew went about their work. All together there were nine people engaged in the event with another student, Yang Ningyi documenting the performance by still photography. We started at 10:30 in the morning, and we swept and cleaned the street, which was full of crowded people busily coming and going - the whole process took about 1.5 hours. We made the entire street perfectly clean. The cleaning ranged from the roadside hawker stall to some areas often ignored by cleaning workers. The participants were very obvious as 'intruders' in the street - wearing 'fluorescent' vests and using colourful, typical Chinese brooms – but especially as there were foreigners in the team, this was a major factor in attracting attention and created comment from the locals. – including compliments, questioning and abuse. When we cleaned the vegetable stall at the lower end of the waste retention, a middle-aged woman standing next to it, her eyes filled with doubt, whispered verbal ridicule in her authentic Guangzhou dialect. When we cleaned the litter in the flower bed, in front of a shop, the owner of the shop picked up the broom quickly to clean the doorway of some garbage. Similar spontaneity of language and behavior happened a lot in the entire process. It also became the unpredictable linking of the whole work, the process of 'action' within the surrounding environment and amongst the local people produced an element of uncertainty and vulnerability – not unlike the usual conditions of the market place itself. The reaction of the audiences – their perceptions and attitudes of 'behavior' allowed us to observe their degree of uncertainty and the acceptability of their respective rights and obligations.

After the The Cleaning Performance was completed, the street, and our position with in it, seemed to have changed - we happily posed for photographs and joked about the instances that had occurred that morning. In the end, we seemed to long for more – to have opened something unknown - art is all around us, it is about how to find it.

Wang Zhiyuan said the idea of The Cleaning Performance actually began two years ago. It was the GAFA Student Workshop that provided the catalyst for the idea to be realised, From this initial project, the artist will continue to produce similar performative acts associated with future solo and group exhibitions in many other locations.