Beverage (Farnese Hercules)


Resin, mineral pigments

149.6 × 121 × 359.5 cm

With its cross-contextual reorganization of distinct visual symbols, the “Beverage” series expands XU ZHEN®’s attempts at transforming civilizational experiences with contemporary concepts. Across the sculptures and paintings in the series, ancient Greek pillars, as a symbol of human civilization, are planted onto various classic imageries in Eastern and Western cultures, including Classical sculpture, Chinese blue and white pottery, and scholars' rock. While displacing themselves isomorphically with straws, these pillars defamiliarize and tease whatever it is they insert into, rendering it both out of place and abreast of the times. The artist uses the everyday action of “sucking” as a metaphor for the interactive relations within humans’ cognition of civilization in the post-globalization era: for instance, the search for a future out of history, the conjuring of illusion by the East and the West of each other, and, not least, the symbolization of the uncertainty and dynamism of contemporary reality.

Farnese Hercules is an ancient statue of Hercules, dating back to the mid 2nd century A.D. and was probably copied from a bronze original from late 4th century B.C., attributed to Lysippus of Sicyon, one of the most important sculptors of the late-classical period. It depicts a muscular, yet weary, Hercules leaning on his club, which has the skin of the Nemean lion draped over it. He has just performed one of the last of The Twelve Labours, which is suggested by the apples of the Hesperides he holds behind his back. In his work, XU ZHEN® plants an ancient Greek column, belonging to the same historical context, onto Hercules' head. A dramatic monologue is thus formed between the two, be it telling of self-affirmation and repetition, or self-questioning and dilution. The work hints at the moment when a civilization is confronted with itself in the post-globalization era, when it must ponder how to break through the cognitive limitations as a subject and, with the help of a self-reflex- ive gaze, to extract energy from civilizational experiences.

Beverage (Farnese Hercules)

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