It can prove quite the tightrope-walk balancing the obscure and the socially (read: commercially) acceptable, separating the earnestly edgy wheat from the gratuitously provocative chaff. From the disgraced man in the mirror, we turn to the rising man in the corner. From the brazen destruction of gender convention to the museful deconstruction of society’s stylescape, New York Pratt Institute Wunderkind Xiaowu Zheng is on the edge of glory.
For those in the slightest of know, the very name Xiaowu Zheng (郑晓武 in Chinese) in itself evokes images of raw, raunchy yet ruminative contradiction. Moving between high-and fast-fashion, classic and conceptual art, Zheng has a fondness for the resuscitation of fashion’s deadstock.
Taking the art of de(con)struction to new daunting, dysmorphic, borderline psychotic, levels, Zheng and his multimedia works of transformation do not shy away from the darker side of humanity, including the floating thoughts of violence, mystery, and sex stemming from his own bouts of depression.
Sometimes art|life involves “making by breaking.” And to those who speak blasphemies about things they do not understand… Karma’s a b*tch.
The Fab Four And Their Summer Of ’47
Launching its partnership with Pratt Institute in 2017, the ’47 Redesign program continued in the spring of 2018 for its second showcase, as the platform invaded Pratt Institute’s “Deconstruct/Reconstruct” course, offering design students an opportunity to resuscitate ’47 deadstock apparel through self-expression and personal flair. Blurring the intersection between athleticism and lifestyle and taps up-and-coming creatives to reinterpret the ’47 heritage sportswear offerings with a new twist.
A stint right up Zheng’s alley, we’d dare say.
In the second expression of this project, ’47 challenged Pratt Institute’s fashion students to create innovative, one-of-a-kind pieces utilizing deadstock ’47 apparel, accessories and headwear. Out of 50 students, only four were chosen and they consisted of Hannah Thomas, the Temper man of the hour Xiaowu Zheng, Stefan Maier, and Katherine Mitts.
And we quote High Snobiety, “Xiaowu left China to pursue the ‘gayest degree’ he could think of in America. With his middle finger out at convention, it’s deconstruction he enjoys the most. And this gender-fluid ‘dress coat’ is the residue of hoodie fabric that’s been stripped, bleached and then reconstructed.”
Judges included design duo and CFDA/Vogue Fashion Finalists Rochambeau, musical artist Vérité, as well as Pratt faculty members. Designer Hannah Thomas, in the end, was chosen as the winner, whilst runner-up KT Mitts also received a scholarship. While the initial creations of more than 50 students were impressive in variation and style, Pratt faculty and the ’47 team honed in on the fab four distinct looks to be featured at the April 25 (2018) ’47 Redesign Runway Show in New York City.
Flying Solo: The Man In The Corner
Zheng’s first solo exhibition “Man in the Corner” ran from August 23 to August 25, 2019, in New York City. The event featured Zheng’s multimedia works of an artistic transformation as showcased throughout his latest 10 pieces of fashion design, encompassing installations, videos, a computer game, and one photo book. The artworks, as well as the fashion designs, were divided into three chapters, hauntingly entitled “Chaos in the Waste Land,” “Garden of Death,” and “The Altar.”
The exhibition space consisted of four separate sections. Three of them showed the three chapters’ installations with their own ambient color light, whereas number four projected Zheng’s video work called “Psychotic” — scroll down and behold.
Zheng consistently focuses on exploring and challenging the concept of morality, from the noisy moody stream of consciousness to the search of violence, mystery, horror, and sex. Most of his works use clothing as the prime and primal outlet to illustrate the floating thoughts and dark emotions of his own bouts of depression. Instead of pulling away from those topics considered more “disturbing” by social convention, Zheng takes his inspirations from the dark side of humanity. And subsequently creates a utopia of chaos and violence.
The Curation Of One Person’s Reconstruction
Aside from clothing, his main squeeze — as mentioned earlier on, Zheng collaborates with other artists from different fields to expand his work and ideas through different media such as 3D modeling, installation, jewelry, film, and photography. Nevertheless, a guiding hand must stand tall and strong at the heart of the matter. Enter: Artist Jing Lin.
The exhibition’s curator Jing Lin is a Chinese contemporary multimedia artist who currently resides in New York City. Lin in 2015 graduated with a degree in Inter-Media Arts from the China Academy of Arts, consequently moved to the U.S., and in 2018 received her MFA in Photography, Video and Related Media from the School of Visual Arts in New York. Her practice explores universal questions at the intersection of human, machine, and reality, and technology, life, and death. Lin’s works often juxtapose Eastern philosophy with Western culture and pop culture with traditional Chinese identity.
Forces combined, the artistic team (once again, scroll down for the customary shout-out) pulled off an impressive set containing disturbingly intriguing visuals — and touchables — which allowed the onlooker to “enter” the haunting process of a depressed soul’s healing. Making by breaking, indeed.
And with the reconstruction of one person, begins the resuscitation of a nation.
If you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it. Genesis.
Hate the sin, love the sinner. Genetics.
A collection by Xiaowu Zheng
Curator: Jing Lin @lin0jing
Jewelry: Mingying Lu @mingying___lllu
3D Artwork: Yuhao Yang @yuhaoxyz
Photography: Siqin Bian @siqinbian
Film: Angie Nicholas @nickolaevskaya
Book Design: Ruidan Jiang @bless_ocean
Soundtrack: Jack Straton
Event Photography: @whoishu97