Gary Zhexi Zhang
Gary Zhexi Zhang, still from The Tourist, 2023.
Link to the artwork: https://thetourist.ggyu.art/
Gary Zhexi Zhang’s new film, The Tourist, 2023, tells the story of Zanzibar, China, and Ali Sultan Issa, a man at the centre of an uneasy marriage between Afrofuturism and Sinofuturism. It explores a shifting geopolitical atmosphere from the cosmopolitan optimism of the “Bandung Spirit” declaration, signed at the first large-scale Afro-Asian Conference in 1955, to the uncertain alignments of today.
Issa and his comrades sparked a diplomatic romance with communist China in the 1960s and sought to build post-revolutionary Zanzibar in the image of the People’s Republic of China. Zanzibar presented itself as China’s revolutionary pupil, and a spark from which pan-African socialism would flourish. Issa was not only a leading Zanzibari socialist, but would also become its capitalist pioneer. In his “second revolution,” he opened the island’s first resort hotel, spearheading the foreign investment which would later define its fortunes as a tropical tourist paradise.
This newly commissioned film grew out of a dialogue with AGYU Assistant Curator Clara Halpern through the program …this is not made of language but energy, a 2020 series of conversations about born-digital art in which Zhang participated. AGYU also co-published with Strange Attractor Press Catastrophe Time!, an anthology of fiction, essays, and interviews about finance and time edited by Zhang.
Gary Zhexi Zhang is an artist and writer whose work draws connections between cosmology, technology, and economics. He was born in Suzhou and works in London. The opera he co-created with Waste Paper Opera, Dead Cat Bounce, premiered at Somerset House in 2022. His last solo exhibition, Cycle 25, documented events that blur the boundaries between speculative belief and the material world, like natural disasters, scam nations, and cosmic economies. Recent group shows include Katabasis, Totalab, Shanghai; Liquid Ground, UCCA Dune, Beidaihe & Para Site, Hong Kong; and The Principle of Hope, Inside Out Art Museum, Beijing. He is lecturer in Critical Studies at Goldsmiths MFA and taught previously at Parsons School of Design. In 2023, he will be an R&D fellow at Rockbund Art Museum, Shanghai. His writing on art, technology and economy have appeared in Frieze, ArtReview, Verge Journal of Global Asias, Journal of Cultural Economy, MIT Journal of Design and Science, among others.
Gary Zhexi Zhang, The Tourist, 2023, is commissioned by the Art Gallery of York University (AGYU), Toronto and curated by Clara Halpern, assistant curator, exhibitions.
The AGYU’s digital art commissions are generously supported by the Canada Council for the Arts through its Digital Strategy Fund.