Zhang Wenzhi: Tigers and Deer - Dalian’s Multiple Natural and Colonial Histories

2023.03.12 Sunday 14:00


706 N. 1st St.798 Art Zone, 2 Jiuxianqiao Rd., Chaoyang, Beijing

Speaker: Zhang Wenzhi

Tigers and Deer - Dalian's Multiple Natural and Colonial Histories

The original building of the Dalian Natural History Museum was the Dalian City Hall during the period when the Russian Empire occupied Lüshun. After Japan invaded Northeast China, this building also came under Japanese authority. The South Manchuria Railway Company founded a geological survey here in 1907. As the number of specimens increased and the collection area expanded, the Manchurian-Mongolian Resource Museum was established in 1928. This building can be seen as the origin of Dalian's urban development. By converting the most important government building during the Russian colonial period into a resource museum to showcase the materials of the Manchurian region, this approach seemed to have turned the city hall into a resource, just like the animal and plant specimens displayed inside.

Previously known as Tiger Park, Dalian Labor Park used to keep a Northeast tiger. This tiger was a gift from General Zeng Qi, who had just taken office in Shengjing, to General Alekseev, the governor of the Russian Far East, during the signing of the "Fengtian Exchange Land Temporary Regulations." The signing of this regulation actually represented the Qing government's transfer of control over the land of Longxing, which belonged to the Great Qing, to the Russian Empire, and this tiger seemed to symbolize the Russian Empire's possession of the vast land of Northeast China. The fate of the once powerful tiger trapped in a stone cage also foreshadowed the future history of Dalian. Eventually, the tiger was gone, but its soul turned into a strange stone cage, still locked in the park built by the Russians for it.

In the urban area of Dalian, Baiyun Mountain and Lianhua Mountain are two connected mountains, with the sea on the other side. There are about 150 wild sika deer living on this mountain range. In recent years, every time I return to Dalian, I take time to track these deer scattered throughout the mountains. The reasons why these deer appear on the mountains in the urban area of Dalian are varied. Once, while observing this group of deer in the mountains, I saw a male deer walking towards a stone monument with the inscription of the Lüshun Fortress landmark established by the former Japanese Kwantung Army. He raised his head, and at that moment, an image appeared in my mind: his proud antlers turned into rough wood in the forest, the heat inside his body seemed to store warm coal, and his fur was like black earth covered with residual snow. At this moment, this group of deer seemed to connect the history and nature of the city. We can follow their wandering route, along the mountain path from the mountain range to the seaside, and see a stone monument called "Kwantung Governor's Office." The history of colonization and the history of nature are closely intertwined, and tigers and deer record the continuous transformation between architecture, landforms, and culture.

About the Speaker:Zhang Wenzhi

Zhang Wenzhi was born in Dalian, China in 1993. Most of Zhang Wenzhi's works employ the medium of ink on paper and installation. His practice is primarily based on his search of Asian mythology and the modern history of Northeast Asia. Zhang also collects the archival materials and specimens of native animals and plants in Northeast Asia, which is also an integral part of his creative process and final work. 
He is currently based between Beijing and Dalian.

About the Project Curator: Yang Beichen

Dr. Yang Beichen is a researcher and a curator based in Beijing, China. He is the director of the Macalline Art Center (Beijing), and one of the members of the Thought Council at the Fondazione Prada (Milan, Venice).

Macalline Art Center is a practice-oriented site focused on contemporary visual inventions. The Center engages with artists and art groups by building physical and online communities through events and research. The Center is guided by the working processes of artists, constantly re-defining and testing itself and renewing perceptual and cognitive systems in contemporary situations and contexts.