‘It’s Like a Person’s Second Skin’: Watch Artist Yin Xiuzhen Repurpose Old Clothing to Create Masterful Sculptures

As part of a collaboration with Art21, hear news-making artists describe their inspirations in their own words.

Production still from the "Beijing" episode of "Art in the Twenty-First Century," Season 10. © Art21, Inc. 2020.

Over the past few decades, China—and Beijing in particular—has undergone a transformation of epic proportions in its society and political structures.

The Beijing-born artists Song Dong and Yin Xiuzhen, who are married and have a daughter, have spent much of their time over this period creating work that reflects the changing city around them, incorporating physical aspects of buildings, remnants of clothing, and other non-traditional materials into their sculptural, conceptual work.

“Beijing has seen huge changes, especially through demolitions,” Yin said. “That’s how things are in China.” 

In an exclusive interview with Art21 on the occasion of their joint exhibition, “The Way of the Chopsticks,” the duo describe how the changing country has affected their work.

“Chopsticks are a pair,” Song says in the video, which originally aired as part of the Art in the Twenty-First Century series. “They exist independently. But they also work in tandem.”

Above: Installation view, Yin Xiuzhen: Along the Way, May 21 – June 26, 2021, Pace Gallery, New York © Yin Xiuzhen.

Both artists use accessible materials that are often discarded, repurposing things like suitcases (which Yin describes as “temporary minimized homes”) for works such as those in their “Portable Cities” series, where each suitcase holds a miniature version of an international city, bound up and ready for transport.

Yin’s first solo exhibition at Pace in New York, “Along the Way,” is now view now.

As in “Chopsticks,” the work reflects the changing tide of globalization, and how it affects local history and collective experience.

Many of the works on view are rendered in porcelain, recalling traditional Chinese materials, and worn clothing, which the artist said “carry a person’s odor, but also their experiences, their values, and their perspectives towards life… It’s like a person’s second skin.”

Watch the video, which originally appeared as part of Art21’s Art in the Twenty-First Century series, below. “Yin Xiuzhen: Along the Way” is on view at Pace in New York City through June 26. 

This is an installment of “Art on Video,” a collaboration between Artnet News and Art21 that brings you clips of newsmaking artists. A new series of the nonprofit Art21’s flagship series Art in the Twenty-First Century is available now on PBS. Catch all episodes of other series like New York Close Up and Extended Play and learn about the organization’s educational programs at Art21.org

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