To Marry a Mule, peformed by Wang Jin, occured in the village of Guangying, the Chaoyang district, Beijing, on 28 July 1995. Wang featured himself as a bridegroom in formal black tuxedo, leading a mule adorned as a bride, made up with cheek rouge, capped with a candy-pink wedding veil and in black stockings. This performance portrayed an absurd wedding ceremony in a rural outdoor setting, which revealed the superficality of the custom and norm of weddings in an ironic tone, expanding from the personal to the social.
The juxtaposition of the mule (as the bride) and Wang (as the bridegroom) was perhaps the first instance in contemporary China of an artist performing at "equal status" to a live animal since the emerging new trend began of using animals (living or dead) as an alternative to the physcial human body in contemporary Chinese performance art in the early 1990s.
Performances that Wang made in the mid-1990s were known for representing the social context of contemporary China in a humorous manner. Their value was intensely related to their close connection with society, while the artist’s body evoked the larger context of social phenomena.
Wang Jin was born in 1962 in Datong, the Shanxi province, and grew up in Beijing. After graduating in 1987 from the ink-painting department of the Zhejiang Academy of Fine Arts (now the China Academy of Fine Arts), he taught fine arts at the Beijing Fashion Institute for five years before becoming a full-time artist based in Beijing. He is a wide-ranging artist: sculptor, installation artist and performance artist. His conceptual work reveals both his personal experiences and the transformations of Chinese culture, while works ranging from photographs to sculptures have been exhibited extensively in China. Since the inclusion of To Marry a Mule in the 1999 Venice Biennale, Wang’s work has been presented with increasing frequency in important museum exhibitions in Asia, the US and Europe.
(Theresa Liu / Magda Lipska)