Zheng Lianjie belongs to that generation of Chinese artists most shaped by the harshness and excess of the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976), when all but the most basic of educational facilities were shut down by government authorities. Despite the lack of formal education, in 1986 at the age of 23, Zheng founded one of the first night schools of fine art in Beijing. It was shortly thereafter in 1988 that Zheng turned his attention to the Great Wall as a backdrop for what has come to be considered among the most seminal performance works in post-Tianamen China.
In 1991, after a year of preparation, Zheng created a series of four performances at the Great Wall in Hebei Province. While Chinese and international critics called the performances ‘stunning and epic,’ the Chinese government held a different view, banning all media coverage of the event, closing a press event opening, and even forcing the shutdown of Beijing Art News for daring to feature an image on its front page.
Since that time Zheng has become recognised as one of China’s foremost performance artists. The films and photographs that document his work were most recently seen in last year’s exhibition at the Allbright-Knox Gallery The Wall: Reshaping Contemporary Chinese Art. Zheng was also a participant in the Chinese Arts Centre’s annual live art festival, Vital in November, 2006.