Looking for the Missing Person

Artists: Zhu Fadong 1993
Looking for the Missing Person

In 1993, in Kunming, the capital of Yunan province, the artist Zhu Fadong performed his groundbreaking art piece Looking for the Missing Person, in which he made over a hundred copies of a missing-person poster based on physical descriptions of himself, and posted the flyers in some of Kunming’s most crowded places. On the poster, it states:

Missing person: Zhu Fadong, artist, male. Went missing on Beijing Road in Kunming, on January 3, 1993. Features: shoulder-length long soft hair, short distance between two eyes, high brow bones, spindly eyes, straight nasal bone but not quite high, wearing a navy-colored hat. Zhu is from Dongchuan, Yunnan province, and is currently living in Kunming. Please contact us if you have any information. No visits. Address: Postbox No. 273, Mayuan, Kunming.

In his own account, Zhu recalled visiting Hainan, the southern island province of China, in the late 1980s, not long after he graduated from Yunnan Fine Art School. Hainan, the largest special-economic zone that was designated by Deng Xiaoping as part of the new 0pen-door policy in China, attracted swarms of people from all over China in the hopes of finding a better living. The countless missing- person posters that Zhu found to his astonishment everywhere on the island gave him a strong, unsettling sense of loss, and triggered the idea of a piece about missing persons. This performative piece reveals, on one hand, a frenetic and chaotic sense of the commercialization craze in China, comparing people lost in utilitarianism to those who were missing. On the other hand, it gives voice to an urgency for soul searching, for knowing and thus being oneself, which has been on a long and difficult quest from the late 1970s even up to today. A year after the missing-person piece, before his departure for Beijing, Zhu performed another piece, Person for Sale, in which he put himself up for sale for a negotiable price.

Zhu Fadong, born in 1960, graduated from Yunnan Fine Art School in the mid 1980s. He became known for a series of works responding to Chinese society in the new era of commercialism. Many of his works involve money exchanged for labor, fake IDs and personal time, which have coincided with the highly market-driven society that we currently live in, by means of countless online services.

(Qu Chang)

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