Zhang Huan's "49 Days"
While out in LA last week I dropped by the fantastic gallery Blum & Poe, which is currently exhibiting Zhang Huan’s “49 Days”, including the breathtaking installation pictured above.
The twenty-two foot tall bell shaped pagoda is comprised of salvaged brick collected from demolition sites surrounding Shanghai (centuries old buildings that have been bulldozed in place of modern architectural progress). Near the center of the structure is a carved window from which a taxidermied pig periodically emerges and from where clouds of incense ash are dramatically emitted into the gallery.
Pagoda serves partly as a tribute to Zhu Gangqiang, or the “Cast-Iron Pig”, now famous for having survived 49 days in rubble, following China’s historic 2008 Sichuan earthquake. Upon hearing its story of survival, Zhang negotiated the pig’s purchase and has subsequently adopted him into his studio, employing a full-time caretaker and making his likeness a central part of his artistic practice. The number “49″ (from which the show takes its title) is dually significant, both for its relationship to Zhu Gangqiang’s story and for its connection to Buddhist thought, as the Buddhists believe 49 days is the amount of time ones soul remains on earth between death and reincarnation.